India has decided not to grant visas to Pakistan nationals wishing to attend the Urs of Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddn Chishti at Ajmer Sharif. Justifying the decision, the Indian government said on Monday there had been instances in the past when such visits did not take place from both sides.

‘’Such visits are facilitated and promoted and visas granted after following due process. However, from time to time, such visits cannot take place in view of the prevailing circumstances and absence of requisite security clearances,’’ said a source in the government.

Sources were reacting to reports from Islamabad, which quoted the Pakistan Foreign Office as expressing disappointment over denial of visas by India to 503 Pakistani nationals intending to attend the Urs.

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

Earlier, he added, as many as 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.

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Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has conveyed greetings and best wishes to the followers of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in India and abroad on the occasion of the 806th annual Urs.

“Peace, unity and harmony is at core of various philosophies in the country. Sufism is one of them. When we talk of Sufi saints in India, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti appears as a symbol of great spiritual traditions. The service of humanity made by ‘Gharib Nawaz’ will continue to be an inspiration for future generations,” the Prime Minister said.

On his behalf, Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi offered a ceremonial ‘chadar’ at the saint’s shrine in Ajmer on Monday.

A huge crowd had gathered at the dargah premises to see the ‘chadar’.

“On the occasion of the annual Urs of this great saint, I am offering ‘chadar’ and Khiraaj-homage to Dargah Ajmer Sharif and wish for a harmonious co-existence of our culture. Greetings and best wishes to the followers of Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti across the world on the annual Urs,” the PM said in his message.

Thousands of pilgrims have arrived in Ajmer for the Urs, an annual festival held in Ajmer to commemorate the death anniversary of the Sufi saint.

Modi’s video message will be aired on the occasion. A number of LCD screens have been installed in and around the dargah for the purpose.

Today (March 19) was the first day of the festival. It will continue till March 27.

(With IANS)