Home minister Rajnath Singh reached Islamabad on Wednesday to protests and rode a chopper to his hotel as Pakistan's prime minister Nawaz Sharif escalated his India-baiting with provocative comments on Kashmir. A large group of protesters were gathered just a few kilometres from the Serena hotel in Islamabad, where Mr Singh is staying during his two-day visit for a SAARC summit.
Officials said the demonstration near the hotel had nothing to do with protests that featured terror group Hizbul Mujahideen Syed Salahuddin, who had warned the Pakistan government against welcoming Mr Singh. The use of a chopper for the home minister was part of Islamabad's plan for "presidential-level" security after New Delhi, responding to protest threats, said his security is the "host country's responsibility".
Pakistan has also posted commandos at the hotel. Ahead of Mr Singh's visit, Salahuddin and Lashkar e Taiba's Hafiz Saeed had threatened big protests against what they describe as "atrocities in Kashmir" and the killing of Hizbul terrorist Burhan Wani, deemed by them as a martyr. Pakistan's government has echoed these comments over the past few weeks and despite a top Indian minister's visit, Nawaz Sharif repeated it today as he said "Kashmir is witnessing a new wave of freedom movement" and asked diplomats to "tell the world that it is not an internal matter of India".
Addressing an Envoys' Conference, Mr Sharif also said that the "movement" in Kashmir "is running into the bloods of third generation of Kashmiri people and the world has itself seen its intensity in the wake of July 8." This is the latest in a series of aggravating comments made by Mr Sharif on Kashmir after the killing of Burhan Wani by security forces on July 8, which led to violent protests in the valley in which nearly 50 people have died.
Mr Singh, 65, is the first senior minister to visit the country since the attack on the Pathankot air base in January, which was blamed on terrorists from Pakistan. No bilateral meeting has been scheduled with Pakistan's Home Minister. Last month, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj accused Islamabad of an "unabashed embrace of terrorism" and warned that its stated goal of detaching Kashmir from India will "not be realised to the end of eternity."