India's Home Minister Rajnath Singh is determined to travel to neighbouring Pakistan to attend a regional summit despite growing threats against his planned tour. Singh's visit comes against the backdrop of high tensions in the Kashmir valley.
The Indian minister will take part in an upcoming meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc). New Delhi has so far ruled out any bilateral talks with Islamabad. But the presence of a top Indian minister on Pakistani soil is likely to anger extremist elements given the volatile situation.
Ahead of Singh's visit, Syed Salahuddin, the chief of the extremist group Hizbul Mujahideen, has threatened to disrupt his schedule. During a rally on Sunday, 31 July, the militant leader lashed out at Singh for "deploying soldiers in Kashmir to shed the blood of innocents". The Pakistani government has not yet responded to Salahuddin's comments.
A top source at the Indian home ministry confirmed to the broadcaster NDTV: "The host country is responsible for the home minister's security." On Monday, 1 August, Singh held a high-level security meeting in New Delhi to assess the situation. The discussions were attended by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, chief of Intelligence Bureau Dineshwar Sharma and the head of Research and Analysis Wing (Raw) Rajinder Khanna.
Alongside the threat issued by the Hizbul Mujahideen group, Hafiz Saeed, the chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD), has threatned to launch nationwide protests if Singh visits Pakistan. Saeed, who has a $10m US bounty on his head, is wanted in India as he is thought to be the mastermind behind the 2008 Mumbai attack but Pakistan has so far denied his role.
Saeed criticised the Pakistani government for hosting Singh by saying: "I want to ask the Pakistani government will it add insult to injury to the wounds of Kashmiris by welcoming Rajnath who is responsible for the killings of innocent Kashmiris. It will be ironical as on the one hand the whole Pakistani nation is protesting against the Indian atrocities in Kashmir and on the other hand the Pakistani rulers will be garlanding Singh."
Kashmir, over which both countries have been locked in a bitter territorial dispute and have fought two wars in the past, has recently been gripped by severe unrest after Indian security forces killed a key separatist figure Burhan Wani.