Pakistan PM offers prayers at Ajmer dargah

Last Updated: Sat, Mar 09, 2013 12:50 hrs

Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf offered his prayers at the Ajmer Sharif dargah on Saturday amid protests by groups and a courteous welcome by the Indian government.

Ashraf, who arrived in Jaipur on Saturday with about 50 people including family members, was received by Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid.

Khurshid, who hosted a lunch for the Premier in Jaipur, said he did not discuss issues like terrorism with Ashraf because he was on a private visit to India.

"Today it was a private visit. There was no official talk. We will do it at the appropriate time," Khurshid told reporters after the lunch.

"This was a private visit. It was a pilgrimage (for Ashraf). This was not the occasion nor did I have the authority to discuss such issues," he said in response to questions about terrorism and border clashes.

Earlier, before Before leaving for Jaipur to receive the Pakistani PM, Khurshid said, "We welcome our guests with open arms. It's in our culture to welcome our guests with open arms. Whoever speaks about it, won't worry us."

Asharaf, on a private visit to the Sufi shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, will not visit New Delhi.

Following his lunch, Ashraf and family left in three helicopters for Ajmer where he offered a green-coloured chadar (sacred cloth) to the dargah.

Security was heightened in Jaipur and Ajmer where several groups of people held protests against the Pakistani PM´s visit.

Ashraf´s route to go back to the helipad in Jaipur was changed after lawyers blocked the Ambedkar Circle route that he was originally supposed to take.

Asharaf also faced a symbolic boycott by the chief cleric at the dargah who had announced he would not assist him in prayers to protest the killing and mutilation of two Indian soldiers along the border earlier this year.

India´s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) slammed Salman Khurshid for his welcome spread for Ashraf.

Senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said, "This move is against the feelings of the people of the country who are deeply hurt over the January 2013 beheading of two Indian soldiers along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir."

Earlier, the spiritual head at Ajmer Sharif Deewan Sayyad Zainual Aubedin Ali Khan said he he does not welcome the planned visit by Ashraf in protest of the killing and beheading of Indian soldiers by Pakistani troops along the border.

"I will not welcome the Pakistani Prime Minister during his visit here in protest against the beheading of Indian soldier by Pakistani Army on LoC. The incident hurt Indians but their government is not understanding our sentiments so I took the decision," Khan was quoted as saying.

"It will be a dishonor to the families of the Indian soldiers who were beheaded by Pakistani army...I have no idea why he is coming here," he said.

Salman Khurshid when approached by media said Indians know how to welcome their guests and the question should be asked to the cleric instead of him.

Khurshid on Friday said that he would receive and host a lunch at the Hotel Rambag Palace in Ajmer on that day for the visiting dignitary as a courtesy

"This is a private visit. I will be there briefly just to extend the courtesy of receiving him, that´s all," he said.

Ties between India and Pakistan had strained earlier this year after Pakistani troops killed and mutilated the bodies of two Indian soldiers along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.

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