Sunday, June 23, 2024

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari visits India for talks

Immigration News

President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan visits India on Sunday — the first by a Pakistani head of state in seven years amid thawing relations between the two nuclear-armed archrivals.

During what officials from both sides describe as a “private” one-day visit, Zardari will meet the Indian premier in New Delhi before heading to an important Muslim shrine in Ajmer to offer prayers.

Zardari on Saturday said he did not expect the issue of Hafiz Saeed to be the focus of his meeting with Singh, amid growing pressure on Pakistan to prosecute the LeT founder for his role in the Mumbai attacks. “My stance on Saeed is not different from that of my government. My visit to India is of a religious nature and I do not think Manmohan Singh will make me sit (and discuss only) this issue,” Zardari told reporters in a lighter vein at the Governor’s House in Lahore.

The South Asian neighbors have fought three wars, two of them over the Himalayan territory of Kashmir, since the 1947 partition of the subcontinent into Islamic Pakistan and Hindu-majority, secular India after independence from Britain.
Last year, both nations pledged not to let their fragile peace process unravel again over the range of thorny issues that put them at odds.

Zardari’s visit comes shortly after the United States issued a $10 million bounty for Hafiz Saeed, the founder of LeT who lives openly in Pakistan.

Trade is one area of discussion that the two leaders may find fruitful as Pakistan moves to normalise trade ties by phasing out major restrictions on Indian imports by the end of the year.

In 1996, India granted Pakistan “most preferred nation” trading status, while Pakistan last year agreed in principle to match the move.

The last Pakistan president to visit India was Pervez Musharraf, who also offered prayers at the shrine of sufi saint Moinudin Chishti in Ajmer, 350 kilometres (220 miles) southwest of Delhi.

Zardari’s 47-member delegation would include his son Bilawal, interior minister Rehman Mallik and foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar and the two sides would also talk about progress in trade ties and the way forward on Kashmir.

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