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Zardari is expected to press Manmohan Singh to visit Pakistan, but the sources said it’s premature to accept the inivtation. In all likelihood, the talks could end in both leaders directing their foriegn ministers to move the peace process forward, specially in view of External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna’s visit to Islamabad in June-July.
This visit is important in the view that Pakistan has moved in the direction of granting India Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status. Last month, a judicial team from Pakistan had visited India to take forward the dragging trial of the 26/11 terror accused.
Amid improving ties, Hafiz Saeed, the suspected 26/11 mastermind and the Lashkar-e-Taiba chief, however, remains a festering irritant. India has been closely monitoring his anti-India jihad speeches and activities, and wants Pakistan to shun its denial mode and take credible action against the man who has made it his mission to poison the waters of bilateral ties.
The US announcement of a $10 million bounty on information leading to the conviction of Saeed has only bolstered India’s case. Against this backdrop, Manmohan Singh and Zardari are expected to discuss “all issues,” including Kashmir and terror, that bedevil the accident-prone India-Pakistan relationship.
Savita Pande, a professor of international relations at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, explained that this trip should be seen in the backdrop of Commerce Minister Anand Sharma’s visit to Pakistan.
Anand Sharma was the first ever Indian trade minister to lead a business delegation of more than 100 Indian companies when he went on a four-day trip to Pakistan in February this year.
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari is likely to visit Ajmer on April 8 to pay obeisance at the famous Sufi shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. A request for a “private visit” by the President has been forwarded to the Indian side though a final date for the trip is yet to be set, sources in the Pakistan government told PTI. However, sources in Delhi said the visit is likely to take place on April 8. The Pakistani sources said the government has kept Zardari’s planned visit to the famous 13th century shrine in Ajmer in Rajasthan under wraps as it is intended to be a “purely private” matter. “The visit is supposed to be devoid of political or diplomatic content but since it involves the President, the possibility of some meetings with Indian leaders cannot be ruled out,” said a source familiar with the plans for the visit. When Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar was reached for comment, he said he was “really not aware” of such a visit. However, a Presidential aide, who spoke on condition that he would not be named, said Zardari’s visit to Ajmer had been in the pipeline for almost a year. “This visit has been planned since last year as the President wants to make a trip to the dargah in Ajmer,” the aide said.