India turns down Rashid’s Srinagar travel request

Associated Press

New Delhi, June 24:

India has denied a request by Pakistan’s information minister to travel to Kashmir on a private visit later this month, a foreign ministry spokesman said. The planned visit by Pakistan Information Minister Sheikh Rashid aboard a newly inaugurated cross-border bus service has been surrounded by controversy over allegations — denied by the minister — that he in 1990s ran a camp to train militants fighting in Kashmir. “The government of India has processed the application and declined to accord permission taking into account all relevant aspects involved,” Navtej Sarna, external affairs ministry spokesman, told reporters. Pakistan had submitted a request for Ahmed, who is also the chief government spokesman, to travel on the bus from Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir to Srinagar. Authorities in each country approve the other’s list before the passengers travel. Ahmed says he has relatives in Srinagar and he wants to travel as a private citizen. Opposition in India to the Pakistani minister’s planned visit had grown since Yasin Malik, a former Kashmiri militant leader-turned politician, reportedly told a gathering in Islamabad earlier this month that Ahmed had once helped train 3,500 militants at a camp near the capital. Malik, who was visiting Pakistan as part of a delegation of moderate Kashmiri separatist leaders, later claimed that he had been misquoted.