Pakistani president visits India for the first time in seven years
The president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, was greeted today by the Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi, marking a historic event in the duo’s storied rivalry raising hopes of reconciliation.
Mr Zardari made the journey to India to pray at the shrine of a famous Muslim saint at Ajmer, 250 miles south-east of the Indian capital.
Although the visit was initiated by the president’s religious agenda rather than diplomatic, it is still seen as a landmark moment in history as it is the first time either of the country’s leading figures have crossed boundaries to either state since President Pervez of Pakistan, who last made the journey in 2005.
Under the protection of heavy security, Mr Zardari had a personal meeting with the Indian prime minister as soon as he arrived which was followed by a larger lunch attended by the president of the ruling Congress party, Sonia Gandhi.
At the lunch meeting the two leaders were expected to avoid controversial topics, focusing mostly on the moves to allow trades between the two and the cultural affairs to boost their confidence with each other.
Speaking after the “informal meeting”, Dr Singh commented: “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.”
Both leaders have shown commitment towards a peaceful co-existence, especially in the last two years as evident by the slow rising trade relations which had disintegrated following the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, when India accused Pakistan’s security establishment of supporting the assailants.
Dr Singh suggested he was open to a visit to Pakistan himself, but at a “convenient time” rather than in the near future. He has tried to remain as diplomatic as possible, trying to stabilise the fragile relation with Pakistan whilst demanding greater co-operation to bring the Mumbai bomb plotters to justice.
The Mumbai attack is not the only issue that could ruin the delicate relation with Pakistan. Once the question regarding the future of Kashmir – the state that triggered two wars between them – is put forward, everything they have worked for might once again be ruined, renewing the tension they have longed to get rid of.