Jaipur, March 9: Cross-border incidents and terrorism apparently took a back seat as the Pakistan Premier and India’s foreign minister lunched here today, discussing the power of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti’s blessings.
“When the Khwaja wants you to come,” Salman Khurshid is said to have told Raja Pervez Ashraf at the Rambagh Palace Hotel, “everything works for you to be able to come here.”
Ashraf today arrived in Ajmer with his family for a private visit to the dargah of the Sufi saint. The trip comes at a time bilateral relations have been strained by Pakistani troops’ act of crossing the Line of Control in early January and killing two Indian soldiers, one of whom they beheaded.
Masses of protesters had lined the roads but the district administration switched the visitors’ route. Khurshid and Ashraf shook hands on the terrace outside the China Room, where the hotel guests usually read, lounge or play indoor games.
The 1835-built heritage hotel, set on 47 acres of lush green frequented by peacocks, appeared completely removed from the bustle of the world outside. Inside, India and Pakistan gave hard diplomacy a break for a day.
After lunch, Khurshid told reporters that though Ashraf was on a private visit, “we extended the courtesy of a state guest to him, looking at his position”.
He added: “We only extended him good wishes for his ziyarat (pilgrimage). This was not the occasion, nor did I have the authority, to discuss important issues. The talk at the lunch was all about the ziyarat, the Sufi tradition and the importance of Ajmer. There was no talk about the LoC killings and terror.”
Khurshid went on to say: “We have taken up such issues (before). We will do it in future. Today, it was a private visit. There was no official talk. We will do it at the appropriate time.”
Asked about the BJP’s protests against Ashraf being treated as a state guest, Khurshid said: “They should look at their own history and they would know why.”
Rajasthan government officials had received the visitors at the airport. A 40-member team, including Ashraf’s relatives and Pakistan high commission officials, arrived in Ajmer around 12.30pm in a fleet of white and black cars and a small bus.
They received a traditional Rajasthani welcome, complete with bedecked elephants, camels, horses and folk dancers.
Ashraf later performed his ziyarat with the help of khadim (priest) Haji Bilal Chishti, who said the visitor had offered a 42sqm chadaar at the dargah and prayed for peace for his family, country and the Islamic world.
On the streets, police baton-charged protesters from the Ajmer Bar Association, BJP, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Shiv Sena, leaving two demonstrators injured.
Ajmer MLA Vasudev Devnani of the BJP is said to have later poured water and symbolically “cleansed” the roads leading to the dargah.