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Diplomatic feuds apart, India continues to engage with Pakistan

NEW DELHI,IFTIKHAR GILANI: Notwithstanding, the recent diplomatic spat in the wake of Kashmir unrest, India and Pakistan have decided to continue with their normal bilateral and multilateral engagements. In Lahore at a meeting between the heads of Border Security Force (BSF) and the Pakistan Rangers, both sides discussed ways to strengthen measures to coordinate border patrolling on their respective sides of the border and address each other’s concerns in a time bound manner. The meeting comes ahead of Union home minister Rajnath Singh’s visit to Islamabad on August 4.

The BSF Director General, KK Sharma told his Pakistani counterpart Major General Umar Farooq Burki that there was a need of vigilance against cross-border infiltration to prevent terrorist activities and check smuggling in narcotics. In another regular meeting between Indian Coast Guard and the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency held earlier in Islamabad operational issues relating to safeguarding of respective EEZs, exchanging of information about pollution incidents affecting the EEZ of the two countries were discussed. They also discussed facilitation of maritime search and rescue operations in accordance with national laws and regulations, and humane treatment and early release of fishermen apprehended by both sides as well as early repatriation of their boats.

“These meetings discuss regional cooperation on a number of security related matters and take stock of progress in various regional mechanisms. Our participation is in the context of our ‘neighbourhood first’ policy and our commitment to regional cooperation within the SAARC framework. The meeting also provides an opportunity for us to underline the high importance we attach to achieving forward movement on security cooperation in the region,” said the MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup. The sixth round of such meeting was held in Kathmandu in September 2014, where Rajnath Singh and the then home secretary, Anil Goswami had participated.

Rajnath is expected to raise Pakistan’s support to cross-border terrorism at the meeting. This will be the first visit to Pakistan by any senior Indian leader after the Pathankot attack on January 2, which created tension between the two countries. Though, no bilateral meeting has been planned as yet, but many analysts here said in case of India-Pakistan engagements, such meetings are announced at the eleventh hour. There is a possibility of his meeting with his counterpart Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and also with the Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Home Minister will be accompanied by Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi and several other senior officers of the home ministry.

Key issues like fight against terrorism, illegal trafficking in narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and small arms and how to make coordinated and concerted efforts to combat such menace will figure in the SAARC meet.

The three-tier meeting will begin at the joint secretary- level and then move on to secretary and home minister-level meetings. The meeting will also focus on strengthening networking among police authorities of SAARC member-countries and also enhance information-sharing among law enforcement agencies.

PM directed Rajnath to visit Pak: Sources
Sources here said that various agencies had recommended to depute Minister of State for Home Kiran Rijuju instead the Rajnath Singh to represent India at the 7th meeting of SAARC Ministers of Interior/ Home being hosted by Pakistan on August 4 in Islamabad, in the wake of recent tensions. But it is believed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi stepped in and directed Rajnath Singh to visit Islamabad in order to convey a message of India’s commitment to regional SAARC framework and neighbourhood first policy.