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India denies visas to Pakistanis for Urs at Ajmer Sharif

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Monday expressed deep disappointment over denial of visas by India to 503 Pakistanis intending to attend the Urs of Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti (RA) at Ajmer Sharif.

In a statement, Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal said that the visit was to take place under the 1974 Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines and is a regular annual feature.

He said earlier, 192 Pakistani Zaireen could not participate in the Urs of Hazrat Khawaja Nizamuddin Aulia (RA) in Delhi in January 2018 due to the non-issuance of Indian visas.

The spokesperson said during last year, despite Pakistan’s offer to send a special train, due to Indian delays in visa issuing, Sikh yatrees from India could not participate in the Martyrdom Anniversary of Guru Arjan Dev and the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Similarly, in February this year the Government of Pakistan made all arrangements for the visit of 173 Katas Raj Pilgrims, who, regrettably, were forced to withdraw their applications from the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi.

He said such measures also undermine efforts aimed at increasing people-to-people contacts and normalizing relations between the two countries.

– Strained ties –

Relations between the two nuclear-armed countries have plummeted in last couple of years, with India blaming militants from Pakistan for a raid on an army base in its part of disputed Kashmir in September 2016 that killed 19 soldiers.

Ceasefire violations are a frequent feature along the Line of Control (LoC) despite the leadership of the two sides agreeing in November 2017 that the “spirit” of a 2003 ceasefire agreement must be revived to protect innocent lives.

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