India to attend SAARC meeting in Islamabad amid Kashmir tension

A Kashmiri woman walks behind concertina wire during a curfew in downtown held Srinagar, August 1, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

A Kashmiri woman walks behind concertina wire during a curfew in downtown held Srinagar, August 1, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI: India’s interior minister will travel to Islamabad for a regional gathering but will not hold bilateral talks at a time when a surge of violence in occupied Kashmir has escalated rivalry between the nuclear-armed neighbours, officials said on Monday.

Fifty people have been killed and more than 6,000 wounded since protests erupted in Indian occupied Kashmir after security forces killed a separatist leader last month.

Burhan Wani, 22, was a commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, a separatist group whose leader is based in Pakistan. He has been declared a martyr by officials in Islamabad while India has branded him a “terrorist”.

Indian home minister to visit Islamabad as tensions flare

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.

India’s Interior Minister Rajnath Singh will visit Islamabad on August 3 but will not have a separate meeting with Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Federal Interior Minister and Pakistani host of the meeting of interior ministers from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc).

“Pakistan easily finds a reason to start violence in Kashmir and we don’t want to engage with them at this juncture,” a senior interior ministry official in New Delhi said.

The Foreign Office could not be reached for comment and the Interior Ministry had no immediate comment.

Wani’s death has revived separatist sentiment, violence and the absence of political engagement has heightened unease between the nations. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said in May, “We are waiting for the day Kashmir becomes Pakistan.”

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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 Lahore to meet PM Nawaz, 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.

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