Sheikh Imran Bashir
Agence India Press
New Delhi: Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari met the Indian Prime Minister in New Delhi on Sunday in the first visit there by a Pakistani head of state for seven years, raising hopes for further reconciliation between the nuclear rivals.
President Zardari and the Indian premier earlier engaged in a private meeting without the presence of aides. Singh has accepted Zardari’s invitation to visit Pakistan and says he would visit the neighbouring country soon.
Accompanied by a large delegation including Pakistan’s interior minister Rehman Malik, Zardari was greeted by India’s minister of parliamentary affairs, Pawan Kumar Bansal here in capital.
“I have taken advantage of President Zardari’s private visit to discuss all the bilateral issues and I am very satisfied with the outcome,” said Manmohan Singh.
He added that President Zardari had also invited him to visit Pakistan, which he said he would be “happy to do” on a mutually convenient date.
Singh and Zardari seemed to strike all the right notes as they met for a half hour chat at Racecourse Road.
“We have a number of issues and we are willing to find practical and pragmatic solutions to all those issues and that is the message President Zardari and I would wish to convey,” Singh said.
“We talked on matters that mattered and hope to meet on Pakistan’s soil very soon,” Zardari said.
More ground was covered during the lunch that followed with key leaders and officials from both sides present. But it was left to Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai to confirm that India’s concerns on terrorism had been reflected during the half hour chat between the two leaders.
Earlier on the day, in a first visit by a Pakistan President in seven years, Asif Ali Zardari arrived in New Delhi for a brief stopover to join Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a lunch that will be preceded by a one-on-one meeting during which they will discuss crucial bilateral issues.
Zardari, who landed here at 12.10 pm at Palam Air Force Base (technical area) along with his son and heir apparent Bilawal Bhutto, interior minister Rehman Malik and some senior officials, was received by minister-in-waiting PK Bansal, foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai and Pakistan high commissioner Shahid Malik among others.
The president stayed for three hours in New Delhi after which he left for Rajhastan on a private airplane and onwards to Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti’s mausoleum in Ajmer Sharif in a helicopter.
Zardari, while visiting the Ajmer Sharif shrine announced a donation of $1 million.
He had prayers at the shrine and prayed for the betterment of humanity.
A silver replica of the shrine was also presented to the president of Pakistan.
Sources told to Agence India Press that, former law minister Babar Awan tried to meet President Zardari while Zardari rejected his request and directed the security to not let him come and meet him.
Awan, is currently in New Delhi for some personal business, they said.
Meanwhile, Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai, while briefing the media about the meeting held between President Zardari and Singh, said that Zardari asked Singh to discuss more about the US bounty on Jamaatud Dawa founder Hafiz Saeed.
He said that both leaders had a detailed discussion on the issue of terrorism.
Mathai said that Pakistan has taken steps forward towards India in the field of trade.
Over the past two years, India and Pakistan have held a series of high-level meetings in their bid to put their peace dialogue back on track, a process considered crucial to regional stability ahead of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
In 2011, New Delhi and Islamabad agreed to resume talks. (AIP News)
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