Rajnath Singh
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh interacting with journalists earlier this month.IANS

Home Minister Rajnath Singh who just arrived in Pakistan and is set to address the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Interior/Home Minister's meet on Thursday in Islamabad will be delivering his speech amid a tense and hostile atmosphere.

More than 2,000 activists of various religious and jihadi outfits who have been anticipating Rajnath's arrival, are protesting against his presence, accusing him of the unrest in Kashmir.

Meanwhile Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stoked fresh controversy on Rajnath Singh's arrival, making provocative comments on Kashmir at the concluding session of the three-day Envoys Conference organised by the foreign ministry.

He asked diplomats to inform the world that Kashmir was "not an internal matter" of India and that Kashmir was witnessing a "new wave of freedom movement."

Singh made his visit despite security concerns following threats from activists of the Hizbul Mujahideen, United Jihad Council (UJC) and other such groups. He is expected to bring up Pakistan's role in allegedly extending support to terrorists including Dawood Ibrahim and other groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba(LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed.

Mumbai attack mastermind and LeT founder Hafiz Saeed is considered to be behind the protests ahead of Singh's arrival. 

A JuD caravan led by Hafiz Saeed's son Talha Saeed, had staged a sit-in at the Line of Control near Chakothi in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) on Tuesday, where they were stopped by Pakistani security forces. They continued their sit-in on Wednesday.

Syed Salahuddin, the leader of militant outfit Hizbul Mujahidden, who is also the chief of UJC, and local leaders of other groups were also seen during the protest.

A protest was also organised by Mishal Malik, wife of Kashmiri leader Yasin Malik, in front of National Press Club, Islamabad.

According to news reports by television outlets, Pakistan has described the 'terrorist' protests as 'religious protests.'

Singh's agenda at the SAARC meet

Before leaving for Islamabad to attend the SAARC Home Ministers' Conference, he tweeted that he was "looking forward to underscore the imperative of meaningful cooperation within the region against terrorism and organised crime."

"This Conference provides a platform to discuss issues pertaining to security," said Singh.

The SAARC meeting is expected to combat terrorism together and aims to strengthen networking among police authorities of SAARC member-countries and also enhance information-sharing among law enforcement agencies.

The meeting is set to focus on security and terrorism, but will also feature discussions on other key such as liberalisation of visa, illegal trafficking of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, smuggling of small arms. Singh may also raise the issue of circulation of fake Indian currency notes in Pakistan allegedly through cooperation of Pakistani agencies.

It is uncertain at the moment if Singh will meet his Pakistani counterpart Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan separately to restore diplomatic ties between the two neighbours.

Recently India had asked its diplomats to withdraw their children from schools in Pakistan. The strained relations can be traced to the rhetoric in the aftermath of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani's killing by Indian armed forces on July 8. The violence that engulfed Kashmir following Wani's death has led to over 50 deaths.

Pakistan political leaders and media have been making provocative statements and glorifying Wani as a martyr.

Sharif praised Wani and also remarked that "Kashmir will one day become Pakistan," a comment which drew the ire of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who said his dream of the state becoming a part of his country "will not be realised even at the end of eternity."

Even as Rajnath Singh departed for Pakistan, during a discussion in the Lok Sabha today, MoS External Affairs V K Singh said that Indo-Pak ties will only move forward if Pakistan puts an end to "anti-India terrorism."

"Government has stated that Pakistan's recent official statements of glorification and support to the terrorist, who was a 'commander' in the banned terrorist organisation Hizbul Mujahideen, and carried an amount of Rs 10 lakh on his head on account of heinous crimes, including murder of elected representatives of local bodies and security forces/personnel, reflect Pakistan's continued attachment to terrorism and its usage as an instrument of state policy," Singh said in reply to a question on Indo-Pak ties.

Pak PM says Kashmir witnessing "a new wave of freedom movement."

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stoked fresh controversy making comments on Kashmir at the concluding session of the three-day Envoys Conference organised by the foreign ministry. He asked diplomats to inform the world that Kashmir was "not an internal matter" of India and that Kashmir was witnessing a "new wave of freedom movement."

"This movement is running into the bloods of third generation of Kashmiri people and the world has itself seen its intensity in the wake of July 8," said Shariff and added that the "resolution of the lingering dispute in accordance with the UN resolutions and the aspirations of the Kashmiri people is the corner stone of Pakistan's foreign policy."

"The Kashmiri youth are writing new chapters of sacrifices to get the right of self determination...They have lost eyesight due to bullets but the desire for freedom is guiding them to the destination," said Shariff.

Pakistan's Permanent Representative to UN Maleeha Lodhi said that in line with the Prime Minister's directive, she would step-up diplomatic campaign to highlight alleged human rights violations in Kashmir at the UN.