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Pakistan’s premier Raja Pervez Ashraf arrived in India on Saturday for a pilgrimage to a revered Muslim shrine, with foreign minister Salman Khurshid welcoming him with “open arms”.

Khurshid’s warm welcome for Ashraf — making his first visit to India as prime minister — comes despite strained relations between the nuclear-armed rivals over recent border clashes.

“It’s in our culture to welcome our guests with open arms,” said Khurshid ahead of a lunch he will host for Ashraf at the Rambagh Palace, a luxury heritage hotel in Jaipur.

Khurshid and Ashraf smiled and shook hands for television cameras before retreating behind closed doors for their lunch.

After lunch, Ashraf and his delegation will leave for Ajmer to offer prayers at the 13th century dargah of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Hasan Chisti.

Ashraf, who is accompanied by a 40-member delegation and some family members, was received at the Sanganer Airport by Rajasthan government officials.

The Pakistan’s Prime Minister’s flight to India was delayed by over 50 minutes.

An official spokesperson in the ministry of external affairs had said that “The Pakistan Prime Minister is not visiting New Delhi and no substantive discussions are scheduled to be held in Jaipur”.

Asked if a proposal for a meeting in New Delhi was made by India, he had said the visiting dignitary had expressed the desire to undertake a private visit and “all requirements to meet his needs are met. In addition we have not received any other request.”

Ashraf’s visit comes at a time when there is a chill in bilateral ties over the ceasefire violations at the LoC. An Indian soldier was beheaded by Pakistani troops while the mutilated body of another was found in January.

New Delhi had lodged a strong protest over the beheading of an Indian soldier and brutal killing of another. – Hindustantimes.com