During the Sunday visit, he will also call on Manmohan and hold discussions
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari will arrive on Sunday on “a private visit for religious reasons to Ajmer” during which he will have lunch with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here.
Accompanied by a 40-member delegation of family members, senior officials, Interior Minister Rehman Malik and the media, Mr. Zardari's first stop will be here for political discussions with an Indian entourage headed by Dr. Singh. He will head for Ajmer Sharif via Jaipur to pray at the shrine of Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti and most probably head back home the same day.
Mr. Zardari is undertaking a visit to a shrine of a Muslim saint at a time when the United States has sought to detain Pakistani nationals Hafiz Saeed and his brother-in-law Abdul Rahman Makki for running the armed organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba which carried out the Mumbai attacks.
Official sources here said India had underlined the need to prosecute all those responsible for the Mumbai attacks including Saeed and his relative at every meeting with Pakistani and American interlocutors and has been quick to welcome the hefty rewards placed for their arrest. On the other hand, several Pakistani organisations have called the bounty as another attempt to stifle dissent against American policies in the region although there is evidence of LeT's involvement in armed violence that killed and maimed civilians.
Sources here said it was on India's request that Mr. Zardari added New Delhi to his itinerary. While announcing Mr. Zardari's visit, Pakistan had said the main aim was to visit the dargah. By the time its request to the Indian government was being processed, backchannels had secured the approval for a meeting.
Ever since dialogue was suspended after the Mumbai attacks and then resumed last year, leaders of the two countries have met on the margins of multilateral conferences and once at a cricket stadium. But after senior Ministers have started making purely official visits, their efforts led to substantial easing of trading restrictions largely imposed following the 1965 and 1971 wars. A more liberal visa regime is in the works and could be announced during this visit along with a reduced list of Pakistani items that attract higher duty or were banned. The civil society in several joint meetings had pressed for normal trade and people-to-people relations and more humanitarian treatment for civilians held for violating each other's laws.
While the Pakistani delegation is final but for last-minute changes, its official sources said India was yet to decide on the composition that would, as per protocol, consist of one Minister. Being the hosts, New Delhi can take time to finalise its list, they said.
Keywords: Zardari's India visit