No decision on participation level for SAARC FMs meet: MEA

Government today said it is yet to decide on the level of India's participation at the SAARC Finance Ministers meeting later this month in Islamabad, amid indications that Arun Jaitley may skip the conference due to strain in ties between the two countries.

The conference is scheduled on August 25-26 in Islamabad.

Earlier this week, official sources had said that Jaitley may not visit Pakistan due to "political reasons".

"You all know what happened last time and what is happening," a source had said, referring to Home Minister Rajnath Singh's visit to Islamabad earlier this month, which was also for a SAARC Ministerial meeting.

Barbs were exchanged between Singh and Pakistan Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who only had a tense and uneasy handshake during the SAARC meeting.

Pakistani authorities did not allow entry of Indian mediapersons, including those from PTI and Doordarshan, inside the venue of 7th SAARC Home Ministers Meeting in Islamabad.

Singh had informed Rajya Sabha that after the meeting was over, Pakistan's Home Minister, who was the host, invited the participants for lunch but left in a car soon thereafter.

"Keeping in mind the country's prestige, I did what I should have done. I have no complaints. I had not gone there for lunch," he had said.

India had yesterday rejected Pakistan's proposal to hold Foreign Secretary-level talks on Kashmir and made it clear that terrorism was "central" to its relations with Islamabad, whose different view and attitude has made it difficult for bilateral ties to grow.

That apart, in his Independence Day address to the nation earlier this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that India will not bow before terrorism, and also brought up Pakistani atrocities on people of Baluchistan and PoK, saying that they have thanked him for doing so.

Though Modi did not make any reference to Kashmir valley, which is witnessing violence after the killing of Hizbul Commander Burhan Wani, he accused Pakistan of glorifying terrorists and celebrating the killings in India.

Pakistan's Finance Ministry in a recent statement had said the country would play the role of a "good host" and try to keep the overall ambiance positive.

South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is a regional intergovernmental organisation. Its member states include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
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