India Denies Visas To Pakistanis For Ajmer Sharif Amid Row Over Diplomats

There have been instances in the past when such visits did not take place from both sides, Indian government sources said

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India Denies Visas To Pakistanis For Ajmer Sharif Amid Row Over Diplomats

India and Pakistan have blamed each other for harassment of diplomats

New Delhi:  With India and Pakistan ties hitting a new low over accusations of harassment of each other's diplomats, India has now denied visas to Pakistani pilgrims to travel to Ajmer Sharif.

"Pakistan notes with deep disappointment the non-issuance of visas by India for the visit of the 503 Pakistani Zaireen (pilgrims) to participate in the Urs of Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti (RA) at Ajmer Sharif, India from 19-29 March 2018," said a statement from the Pakistani foreign office.

The visit was to take place under the 1974 Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines and is a regular annual feature, the Pakistani statement said.

But Indian government sources pegged the denial of visas to "prevailing circumstances".

"From time to time, such visits cannot take place in view of the prevailing circumstances and absence of requisite security clearances.  There have been instances in the past when such visits did not take place from both sides," the sources said.

The move comes against the backdrop of a host of allegations levelled by India and Pakistan, blaming each other over the harassment of diplomats.

Last week, India complained that some officials of the Indian high commission were aggressively followed and abused when they were out shopping in Islamabad. The incident took place a couple of days after an Indian diplomat and his family on their way to a restaurant were chased by two men on a motorbike, prompting India to call "harassment the new normal for Indian High Commission personnel in Islamabad".

Earlier this month, Pakistan tried to embarrass New Delhi by going public with its complaints of alleged harassment of its diplomatic staff and their family in the national capital. On 15 March, the Pakistan's foreign ministry announced that it was calling back High Commissioner Sohail Mahmood for consultations in the light of some recent incidents.

India had brushed aside the hype created around this decision, pointing that it was routine practice for any country to call its envoys for consultations.

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