Indian govt divided over Raja Pervez Ashraf’s visit to Ajmer

NEW DELHI: A deep divide has opened up within the Indian government over the Ajmer visit of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid is keen to receive the Pakistani PM at Ajmer but senior functionaries in the government oppose the move. They say a junior officer should be sent to receive the prime minister.

The opposition to Khurshid’s Ajmer plan ties in with the UPA taking the moral high ground after the alleged killing of two Indian soldiers along the LoC in January.

“There cannot be business as usual, and the foreign minister receiving a Pakistani dignitary will send out a wrong message”, those opposing the move said.

“We have spelled out our reservations but the minister seems keen to go,” India Today quoted a source as saying.

Khurshid may be seeking for political gains in photo op diplomacy at Ajmer, but sources say that even a minister of the Rajasthan government could have been sent to fulfil protocol requirements.

Sending a Union minister when the visit is not even deemed official will send out the wrong signal, and will provide an official tag to the visit scheduled for March 9.

Despite Khurshid’s positivity, the Indian government remains keen to ensure that Raja Pervez Ashraf’s Ajmer visit doesn’t become an official engagement, like President Asif Ali Zardari’s visit last year.

Meanwhile, a local priest on Friday expressed concern over Pervez Ashraf’s visit to Ajmir.

On the eve of Ashraf’s arrival, the Diwan of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti shrine in Ajmer- Zainul Abedin Ali Khan – opposed the visit in protest of the alleged beheading of two Indian soldiers.

Talking to Headlines Today over the phone, Abedin said that as being the head of the shrine he would boycott the Pakistani prime minister when he paid reverence to dargah on his visit on Saturday.