India-Pak SAARChasm: Rajnath set to return angry, hungry, gagged

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The chasm in India-Pakistan relations widened on Thursday after Pakistan blacked out Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh's speech at the SAARC meeting at the ironically named Serene Hotel in Islamabad.

Singh, in his speech, slammed Pakistan without naming it, but pointedly telling it not to glorify terrorists, a clear reference to Pakistan eulogising slain Hizbul militant Burhan Wani as a martyr. "Those who support, encourage and give sanctuary to terrorists must be isolated", Singh said, even calling for action against states that supported terror groups.

Rajnath Singh

The strain in ties became evident when both Rajnath Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan skipped a lunch that was supposed to be hosted by the latter for the visiting SAARC ministers!

Earlier in the day, Khan was at the gates of the Serene Hotel to receive the dignitaries, but Singh barely shook hands with him, upset that the Pakistani authorities had allowed protests against him as he arrived by known terrorist groups.

Pakistan spared no effort to provoke India ahead of the SAARC meeting, first denying visas to Indian journalists to cover the event, then allowing street protests against India and Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself trying to embarrass India by raising the pitch on Kashmir just as Singh arrived in Islamabad.

While the Pakistani private media was kept out of the SAARC meet, even the government media only covered the speeches of Sharif and Khan, blacking out Singh's speech.

Meanwhile, the Home ministry cancelled a press conference Singh was scheduled to address at Delhi airport.

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