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Arun Jaitley could skip SAARC meet in Pakistan

The exchange of barbs during the Independence Day celebrations over the last weekend has cast  a shadow on the future of Indo-Pak ties. The immediate casualty could be the visit of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to Pakistan next week to participate in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) meeting of Finance Ministers.

A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to raise the issue of violation of human rights in Balochistan, Gilgit and Pak-Occupied Kashmir, his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif said, “The world needs to take stock of the latest brutalities against unarmed innocent Kashmiri people who are heavily sacrificing for attainment of their inalienable right to freedom.” 

Sharif’s remarks came as he met Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob Khan, the outgoing president of Pakistani-occupied Kashmir (PoK). The Pak Prime Minister reiterated his government’s resolve to extend its fullest moral, diplomatic and political support to the “freedom struggle” of Kashmiri people.

However, emboldened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s encouraging words, leaders of the Baloch Nationalist Movement have sought support from the US and European countries against the oppressive Pakistani regime. Chairman of the Baloch National Movement Khalil Baloch said in a statement that the world must understand that Pakistan’s use of religious terrorism as a policy tool would have far reaching consequences.

Terrorism cannot be contained, but needs to be countered effectively, he said. He expressed the hope that US and Europe would join Prime Minister Modi and hold Pakistan accountable for war crimes against the Baloch people during its occupation of Balochistan. He also said the indifference of the international community in this respect was worrying.

To counter Baloch propaganda, in addition to the Government stand, Pakistan also let loose Jaamait-ul-Dawa chief Hafeez Saeed on the television channels to spew venom against India. 

Pak regulatory body since November last year had “restrained” news channels from giving airtime to the Mumbai terror attack mastermind. He is back on some channels “advocating the cause of Kashmiri people”.

Meanwhile, in New Delhi, Government sources indicated that Finance Minister Jaitley may give the SAARC ministers meet in Islamabad on August 25 and 26 a miss. 

A final decision, however, will be made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and this will be followed by a formal announcement, the sources said. Reports suggested economic affairs secretary Shaktikanta Das would represent India at the meet. 

When asked about Jaitley skipping the scheduled Pak visit, his colleague Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar was quoted as saying that “going to Pakistan was like going to hell.” He also indicated that there was not going to be any let-up in the action by the security forces against terror elements and violence in Kashmir valley. 

Four persons were killed and several others injured in clashes between security forces and stone-pelting protestors in Budgam and Anantnag districts on Tuesday where normal life remained paralysed for the 39th consecutive day due to curfew, restrictions and separatist-sponsored strikes.
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