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After Rajnath, will it be Jaitley’s turn in Pak?

After Pakistan’s moves over Kashmir and Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s visit to Islamabad for the SAARC meet, the government is considering whether to send Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for the next SAARC ministerial meeting later this month.

Though Pakistani media has reported that Mr. Jaitley was definitely attending the meeting of Finance Ministers on August 24 and 25, Finance Ministry officials told The Hindu “no decision has been taken yet” on the level of delegation to be sent.

After the Home/Interior Ministers’ meet, the Finance Ministers will meet to set the economic agenda for the SAARC summit in November which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to attend.

On Friday, Home Minister Rajnath Singh had expressed displeasure after Pakistani officials moved to block the Indian media from covering his attendance at the meet.

Recounting that Pakistan’s Home Minister Chaudhury Nisaar had rudely skipped the lunch he was himself the host for, Mr. Singh told Parliament that while Indian leaders have always reached out to Pakistan, “Pakistan just does not come around” ( Pakistan hai ki maanta nahin).

MEA’s version

The Ministry of External Affairs has maintained that according to protocol, Home Ministers’ deliberations at the SAARC meeting are always off-camera, but Indian journalists were not even allowed on the premises of the conference venue during the inaugural session, which is normally open to the media.

According to a report filed on Sunday by news agency PTI, which was one of the few media organisations granted a visa to Pakistan, “Indian journalists, who went to cover the SAARC Home Ministers’ conference in Islamabad, had to face hostile Pakistani officials,who barred them from standing at the entrance of the venue where their Interior Minister was to receive dignitaries, leading to tense moments.”

Pakistan’s plan

“It was clear that Pakistan’s plan was to downplay the Home Minister’s visit by providing clips of the conference, where they only showed Pakistan’s Prime Minister and Interior Minister, while at the same time keeping Indian media from covering him,” an official who was part of the delegation told The Hindu.

Protest against Rajnath

Adding to the government’s concerns was the fact that terror group leaders like Hafiz Saeed and Syed Salahuddin were allowed to publicly protest Mr. Singh’s visit, despite having issued threats against the Home Minister, and that several protestors were allowed right outside the hotel where the conference was being held.

As the government now considers the delegation to be sent for the Finance Ministers’ meeting, which will include a retreat in the mountain resort of Murree as well, questions are being raised about whether the Minister needs to attend.

During the Home/Interior meeting, for instance, only Bhutan, India and Sri Lanka sent Ministers, while Afghanistan and Maldives sent deputy Ministers, and Nepal and Bangladesh sent their Home Secretary and High Commissioner respectively.

Officials say they were also surprised by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s statements on Kashmir on the international fora, which have been particularly sharp and “clearly aimed at building up the rhetoric” ahead of the U.N. General Assembly in September this year.

On the day he met Mr. Rajnath Singh along with the other SAARC invitees, Mr. Sharif had written to the International chief of Doctors without Borders (MSF), calling for them to send doctors to treat victims of pellet injuries in Kashmir.

Corrections & Clarifications:

A previous version of this article had reference to Doctors with Borders. It has been corrected to Doctors without Borders.


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Printable version | Nov 29, 2021 10:35:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/After-Rajnath-will-it-be-Jaitley%E2%80%99s-turn-in-Pak/article14560512.ece

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