External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will not have substantive discussions when he hosts Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf for lunch in Jaipur on Saturday, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday while providing details of the visit.
Mr. Ashraf, along with his extended family, is scheduled to visit Ajmer for a day to offer prayers at the Sufi shrine of Ajmer Sharif and will not touch down in New Delhi. He will land in Jaipur and leave for Ajmer after lunch with Mr. Khurshid. That evening he will return to Jaipur and immediately board a special flight to Pakistan.
Asked if there were suggestions for a meeting in New Delhi, External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said Mr. Ashraf had expressed the desire to go to Ajmer on a private visit. “All requirements to meet his needs are met. In addition we have not received any other request,” he added.
On why India was going out of its way to interact with the Pakistani Premier when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said it could not be “business as usual” with Pakistan after the beheading of an Indian soldier near the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir in January, Mr. Akbaruddin maintained Mr. Khurshid was not going to have substantive discussions.
All that was being extended to Mr. Ashraf was normal courtesy due to any Premier or head of state with which India has diplomatic relations. “It is an important country. And in accordance with normal diplomatic protocol we are extending him due courtesies,” he explained.
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari too had come last year to pay obeisance at Ajmer Sharif, but he made a three-hour stopover in New Delhi on Dr. Singh’s invitation during which they exchanged views over lunch.
Earlier in the day, the Pakistan Foreign Office confirmed that Mr. Ashraf would visit the dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti on a private visit. As of now, no media representative — not even from the State-owned wire service, the Associated Press of Pakistan — is part of the entourage.
Dialogue after LoC tension
Asked about Dr. Singh’s remarks in Parliament that the flare-up along the LoC had affected the dialogue process, Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam Khan said: “We have an established mechanism under which all these issues could be addressed and resolved. We are ready to use the U.N. mechanism in this regard. We have also offered India to take it to any forum they feel comfortable with under the U.N. system.”
On Dr. Singh’s charge that Pakistan had not done enough to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks to book, he said: “We need proof, which could stand the scrutiny of the court. Just declaring somebody a perpetrator is not enough.”
Pakistan PM is visiting Ajmer Sharif on Saturday
“We are extending him due courtesies in accordance with normal diplomatic protocol”