Pakistan PM Seeks Blessings At Ajmer Shrine



New Delhi: Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf is to under take a private visit to the Sufi shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti at Ajmer Saturday (March 9). He will not visit New Delhi, an official said Thursday.

He will be hosted for lunch by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid at the Hotel Rambag Palace in Ajmer on that day. “No substantive talks are scheduled” between the two sides, the external affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said at a news briefing.

The external affairs ministry is facilitating the day-long private visit of the Pakistan prime minister, he said.

Ashraf will be accompanied by members of his family and will arrive at Jaipur on March 9 morning and depart for Ajmer.

After completing his prayers, he will depart for Jaipur and take a special flight back to Islamabad that evening, the spokesperson said.

“He expressed a wish to visit Ajmer and we have abided by that desire. He will be extended due courtesies in accordance with diplomatic norms. All requirements that meet his needs are being met,” he added.

The visit comes around two months after ceasefire violations on the Line of Control that led to heightened tensions between the two neighbours.

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari had visited the 13th century shrine on April 8 last year.

Zardari had landed in Delhi and driven straight for a luncheon meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and several other leaders. He had then flown to Jaipur and taken a chopper to Ajmer, where he spent around 20 minutes and offered flowers and chadar at the shrine.

He had been accompanied by his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and had also donated $1 million to the shrine.

Before his pilgrimage, he will have lunch with External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid in Jaipur.

The government said the lunch is part of diplomatic courtesy being extended to the visiting dignitary and there will not be any substantive dialogue. “I will be having lunch and only lunch no talks,” said Khurshid.

“Pakistan prime minister is coming for religious and spiritual visit. we will say hello and obviously, when we say hello we just don’t only say hello. But there is no agenda for formal talks,” he said. Khurshid will host a lunch for him (Ashraf) at a local hotel (Rambagh Palace) in Jaipur following which Pakistan Prime Minister will depart for Ajmer. Upon completion of prayers at Ajmer, the visiting Prime Minister will return to Jaipur the same evening and take a special flight back to Islamabad. On why Indian government was going out of way to interact with Pakistani leader when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had made it clear that it cannot be “business as usual” after the beheading of an Indian soldier near LoC in Jammu and Kashmir, the spokesperson said, “There will not be any substantive discussions and that said, he is Prime Minister and Head of State with which we have diplomatic relations. It is an important country. And in accordance with normal diplomatic protocol we are extending him due courtesies.”

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