India puts off meeting with Pak minister

With the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) anticipating fireworks during the winter session of Parliament starting Tuesday, the government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has conveyed to its counterpart in Pakistan to cancel their interior minister’s proposed visit on November 22-23 to kick start a new, liberalised visa regime between the neighbours.

Through diplomatic channels, India has informed them that Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde would be too pre-occupied to entertain his counterpart Rehman Malik, given the fact that he is also leader of the House in the Lok Sabha, but the underlining message is to push Islamabad to act decisively against perpetrators of 26/11 Mumbai terror strike.

No new dates have been suggested by either side for Rehman's visit. Malik, trying to derive political mileage, had shown inclination to come to New Delhi to operationalise the new visa agreement, already ratified by the Cabinets of both countries, when he met Shinde at Rome during an Interpol meeting.

He had proposed two days, November 22 and 23, but Shinde was not enthusiastic as he knew Parliament would be in session. The government and the home ministry believe that hosting Malik would amount to bending over backwards without Pakistan responding equally on terror issues that are New Delhi’s priority. The same thinking in the UPA government has kept on hold the prime minister’s visit to Islamabad at the invitation of the neighbour.

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