Manmohan, Zardari to discuss ‘important’ issues
Pakistan President Arrives Today
New Delhi/Islamabad, Apr 7: Although Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari is coming to India Sunday to pray at Ajmer Sharif, he will discuss “issues of importance” with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Pak foreign office said Saturday. Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on Dr Singh to broach with Islamabad the issue of Hafiz Saeed in the backdrop of USA declaring a bounty for information leading to his arrest and prosecution. National Conference chief patron Dr Farooq Abdullah is among the frontline leaders asking the Government to take a clear cut stand on Saeed issue.
Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Abdul Basit confirmed that Zardari will meet Manmohan Singh at lunch in New Delhi, DawnNews reported.
The spokesperson said the president's visit to India was “personal” and the “real motive of the visit is to pay a visit to the shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti at Ajmer Sharif”. But Manmohan Singh and Zardari “will also be discussing some issues of importance during their meeting”, he added. “President Zardari will invite Prime Minister Singh to visit Pakistan by the end of this year,” Basit said.
While the Pakistani leadership has extended the invitation to Prime Minister earlier, this would be first time that a time-frame has been proposed for the summit meeting. On his part, Singh has accepted the invitation earlier but has made it clear that he would undertake the visit only if there is likelihood of a substantive outcome.
Singh had reiterated this on his way back from the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul last month when he told reporters that he would visit Pakistan provided there is “something to celebrate.”
In reply to a question, Basit said he had no knowledge of a meeting between Zardari's son Bilalwal Bhutto Zardari and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.
Zardari is flying to India on a short visit Sunday. He will land in New Delhi, meet the prime minister, fly to Ajmer and then return to Pakistan.
No aides will be present from either side at the meeting to be held at Singh's official Race Course Road residence followed by lunch to be attended by select guests on both sides.
Those invited from the Indian side for the Prime Minister's lunch for Zardari include Rahul Gandhi and senior ministers Pranab Mukherjee, A K Antony, S M Krishna and P Chidambaram, sources said.
From the Opposition, NDA Chairman L K Advani and Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj have been invited, they said.
During his day-long trip to India, Zardari will be accompanied by his 23-year-old son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who took over the reigns of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) after the death of his mother Benazir Bhutto in 2007, Interior Minister Rahman Malik, Foreign Secretary, senior officers of Presidency and media.
“Though there is no structured agenda but the leaders are expected to focus on bilateral issues,” official sources in New Delhi said. Ahead of the visit both sides had made it clear that the two leaders will talk about issues of mutual concern.
“..All bilateral issues are likely to be discussed...,” External Affairs Minister S M Krishna has said.
Zardari will be the first Pakistani head of State to visit India since 2005, when the then military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, had travelled to New Delhi for talks with the Indian leadership.
Pakistan's top leadership has described Zardari's trip as a "private visit" aimed at fulfilling a long-standing desire to offer prayers at the famous 13th century Sufi shrine at Ajmer in Rajasthan.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will not mince words and clearly convey India's concern on terrorism and the need to book the perpetrators of 26/11 Mumbai attacks when he meets Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari in Delhi tomorrow, Union Minister Farooq Abdullah said today in Jammu.
Abdullah said it is vital to bring to book those responsible for the terror attacks including Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founder Hafiz Saeed, who is the kingpin of the audacious attack on the western metropolis which claimed 166 lives.
“I think the Prime Minister will be very clear. Prime Minster is not one of those who will mince any words. I am sure the Prime Minister within that atmosphere of cordiality will put the Indian point of view before President Zardari and I am sure President Zardari will respond to the Prime Minister when he meets.
“And I hope that the meeting is held with the idea of taking India-Pakistan friendship forward," Abdullah said when he was asked if India should press for action against the LeT chief.
Abdullah also said that the USD 10 million bounty announced by the United States on Saeed is not aimed at killing him, but to bring him to book.
“Already America wants a trial to be held. I think the bounty that has been put on him is actually to bring him to the count, not to eliminate him. And I think India has already very clearly given the proof to Pakistan and to the world of his involvement in 26/11 that has taken place in Mumbai.
“I think what is vital for these people who are responsible for those unfortunate deaths that took place and the destruction that took place in Mumbai should be brought to book and we believe that the kingpin of all that has been Hafiz Saeed," the Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy said.
PRESSURE MOUNTING ON PM:
The Congress and the BJP have already upped the ante on Hafiz Saeed. Both the parties have asked Dr Singh to seek strict action against Saeed.
Raising the issue, the BJP has demanded that India should take up the twin issues of Hafiz Saeed and Sarabjit Singh with the Pakistani leader. The party spokesperson and MP Tarun Vijay has suggested that India must convey its concerns on the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack to President Zardari. "He is on a personal visit. We welcome his visit. Zardari is himself in a problem in his country. India must convey his concerns regarding terrorists who are being shielded in Pakistan," he said.
Commenting on the recent turn of events related to Hafiz Saeed, Vijay said, "Hafiz Saeed is India's criminal. It is ironical that US has announced an award. This should be definitely conveyed to Zardari when he arrives in India. Sarabjit Singh should also be discussed this time.”
In a similar reaction, the Congress has also sought to build pressure on Dr Singh. Congress Spokesperson Rashid Alvi said, "Saeed must be handed over to India."
Apart from Bilawal, Zardari's 47-member delegation would include 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.
Presence of AICC General Secretary Rahul Gandhi at the lunch with Zardari has evoked interest in view of the Bhutto family scion Bilawal Zardari Bhutto also accompanying the visiting delegation. Gandhi and Bhutto, two scions whose families have passed through similar circumstances are expected to know each other. Both have studied in Britain - the former at Cambridge, the latter at Oxford.
Lastupdate on : Sat, 7 Apr 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 7 Apr 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 8 Apr 2012 00:00:00 IST
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