The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Building votes out Pak for ‘peace’

Mumbai, Jan. 19: The Pakistan high commission’s attempt to rent premises in a Nariman Point building for an office reached a dead end, with the building society rejecting the proposal after the mission refused to provide an undertaking giving a guarantee of “peace”.

“At a meeting held last evening, all 101 members of the building have rejected the proposal of the high commission,” said V. Rajagopal, chairman of the Mittal Chambers Co-operative Society, where the high commission wanted to rent the premises.

Reacting to the decision, an official of the Pakistan high commission in Delhi said there was nothing new in the decision.

A foreign ministry official hoped the issue would be resolved through the Maharashtra government’s intervention. It was also discussed in the Indo-Pak foreign-secretary level talks that concluded yesterday.

Rajagopal said the main reason was the flow of visitors to the Pakistan office, which the members felt would disturb the peace of the building. “There would be 200 to 300 visitors every day, from morning to evening, including Sundays. The members felt there would be no peace.

“The members also felt that they would face a problem in parking their cars.”

The building houses the offices of Reliance Finance, a few Birla companies, Emirates Airlines, Canara Bank and Corporation Bank.

Rajagopal denied that the society felt that the presence of the Pakistani high commission would pose a security threat ' the society had apparently expressed such fears at a previous meeting ' but said the commission had refused to give an “undertaking”.

“We asked the Pakistan high commissioner to give us an undertaking stating that ‘peace will be maintained’,” said Rajagopal. “They said that they enjoy diplomatic immunity, hence could not give the undertaking. The high commissioner met us three times.”

He said the society has informed the member who owned the premises that the mission wanted to rent.

Rajagopal said the office of another country in a nearby building has provided an undertaking assuming responsibility for the visitors to its office and has also created a separate waiting area.

Early this month, the Pakistan high commission was close to signing the contract to rent the 7,000 sq-ft flat, owned by Vivek Singhal, brother of VHP leader Ashok Singhal, and Ravishankar Singhal, the son of their deceased brother.

The Singhals were keen to rent out the flat but the other members objected on grounds of security.

Pakistan high commissioner Aziz Ahmad Khan had flown in from New Delhi to meet the building society on January 5. The society had decided to reconsider its decision then.

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