Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh to attend SAARC summit in Pakistan on Wednesday

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Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh will visit Pakistan on Wednesday to attend the SAARC Home Ministers’ conference.

The minister will not hold bilateral talks at a time when a surge of violence in disputed Kashmir has escalated rivalry between the neighbours.

“The SAARC meeting is a multilateral meeting. There are some commitments. He is not going to give some message or having a separate meeting with (the) Pakistani Home Minister,” Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju told reporters.

The Home Minister will reach Islamabad on Wednesday and return to New Delhi the next day after attending the 7th meeting of SAARC Interior/ Home Ministers.

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At least 50 people have been killed and more than 6,000 wounded since protests erupted in Indian-occupied Kashmir after security forces killed a famous freedom fighter last month.

Burhan Wani, 22, was a commander of Hizbul Mujahideen. He has been declared a martyr by officials in Islamabad while India has branded him a “terrorist”.

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India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars since independence over Kashmir, which each rules in part but claims in full. The line of control dividing the Himalayan region still broadly runs along the front when the guns fell silent in 1948.

However, the head of an anti-Indian movement in AJK has decried the Indian minister’s visit as well as Pakistan’s allowing him to attend the summit.

“India has let loose a reign of terror in the occupied territory, massacring unarmed civilians with impunity on a daily basis,” Syed Salahuddin, head of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen group, told media by telephone.

“Pakistan should have suspended if not severed diplomatic ties with India. However, they are rubbing salt in the wounds of the Kashmiris by welcoming the Indian home minister here.”

The rivalry between India and Pakistan has hampered efforts to transform SAARC into a meaningful platform for integration in South Asia, which accounts for a fifth of the world’s population but less than a tenth of its economic output.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last December made a surprise stopover in Pakistan to meet Sharif, a meeting that was seen as a refreshing gesture, but the thaw was frustrated by a New Year attack on an Indian air base that New Delhi blames on Pakistan and the latest frictions on Kashmir.

Read more: India to attend SAARC meeting in Islamabad amid Kashmir tension