Saudi King flaunts faith, skips Rajghat

via The Pioneer published on January 27, 2006

The absence of a visit to Mahatma Gandhi’s samadhi at Rajghat on the official itinerary of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, chief guest at Thursday’s Republic Day celebrations and on a state visit to India, has raised eyebrows and left people wondering as to what could have been the reason for his omission.


Rare is the occasion when visiting dignitaries, including heads of Islamic countries, do not visit Rajghat to pay tribute to Mahatma Gandhi. It is a permanent fixture on the official itinerary and part of the protocol drill.


However, it is understood that Rajghat was not included in the official itinerary of the Saudi monarch, who during his visit raised the annual quota of Haj pilgrimsfrom India by 10,000 to 1,47,000, a gesture “much appreciated” by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, given the fact that he is the keeper of the Wahhabi faith and the custodian of Islam’s holiest shrines.


In either capacity, the King would not have agreed to pay obeisance at a monument, in this case raised in the honour of the memory of Mahatma Gandhi. Hence, Ministry of External Affairs officials, while negotiating the itinerary of King Abdullah’s state visit with their Saudi Arabian counterparts, chose not to suggest the customary visit to Rajghat.

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