Malik visit: Pak requests new dates, India offers Dec 14-16

FP

Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik has changed his mind: he does not want to celebrate his 61st birthday on December 12 at the Taj Mahal.

Islamabad on Wednesday requested for a change in dates in Malik's visit to India.

Though no reason was given by the Pakistani side for seeking the fresh dates, sources said Islamabad feared that Malik would get mauled by the media on December 13 as it marks the 11th anniversary of the attack on Indian Parliament by Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed — terrorist outfits which continue to operate from Pakistan.

After showing reluctance to host him on November 22-23 because of the planned execution of Ajmal Kasab on November 21, New Delhi last Tuesday accommodated Malik's personal request to host him from December 11-13 so that he could be at the Taj Mahal with his wife Saeeda Rehman on his birthday.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde extended the invite despite his busy schedule with the Parliament in session, the official reason given for putting off Malik's November visit.

Message was conveyed to Islamabad that Malik and his wife could visit the shrine of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer on December 11 and the Taj Mahal on December 12, the days Shinde would be fielding questions in Parliament.

The operationlisation of the new India-Pakistan visa regime and the bilateral talks were fixed for December 13 followed by a joint press conference with Shinde on the same day.

Sure enough, Islamabad has now requested for a change in dates.

The Home Ministry has now suggested that Malik could first visit Agra on December 14 followed by a trip to Ajmer the next day. The official talks and events have been scheduled for December 16.

However, it is likely that Islamabad would rebuff these dates too to avoid another embarrassment: its defeat in the 1971 war and the signing of the Instrument of Surrender to India at Dhaka on December 16 in 1971.

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