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Zardari in Delhi, hopes to get PM to visit Pakistan this year

Last updated on: April 08, 2012 12:27 IST
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari arrived in Delhi from Lahore on Sunday for a day-long visit to India during which he will have a luncheon meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Delhi and pay obeisance at the Sufi shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer.

Zardari is accompanied by his 23-year-old son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who took over the reins of the Pakistan Peoples Party after the death of his mother Benazir Bhutto in 2007; Interior Minister Rahman Malik, Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani and senior officials of the presidency.

Pakistani TV channels reported that Zardari's two daughters Asifa and Bakhtawar were also accompanying him, but there was no official word on it.

Zardari's special aircraft took off from the Old Lahore airport, which is near the international airport and mainly used for VIP and military flights. There was special security arrangement at the airport.

Tight security was also put in place on the route from the Governor's House to the airport. One of the double lanes near the Governor's House had been closed and police deployed on the route.

Zardari and his delegation travelled in a long motorcade of armoured vehicles escorted by dozens of security personnel in other cars.

Though there is no structured agenda for his talks with Singh, "the leaders are expected to focus on bilateral issues," officials sources had said in Delhi.

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 had said.

With renewed pressure on Pakistan to take action against Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the 26/11 terror attacks on Mumbai, after the United States announced a USD 10 million bounty on the Lashkar e Tayiba founder, the issue is likely to figure during the meeting between the two leaders.

Ahead of the visit, the two countries have sparred over Saeed, with Islamabad maintaining that they have not received any "concrete" proof against the JuD chief and New Delhi asserting that no amount of denial by them can exonerate him.

On the eve of his India visit, Zardari, however, said on Saturday that he did not expect the issue of Saeed to be the focus of his meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

"My stance on Saeed is not different from that of my government. My visit to India is of a religious nature and I do not think Manmohan Singh will make me sit (and discuss only) this issue," Zardari had told reporters in a lighter vein at the Governor's House in Lahore.

Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has already said in parliament that the case of Saeed is an "internal issue" of Pakistan. Gilani further said that any evidence against Saeed should be provided to Pakistan so that it can be examined by the country's independent judiciary.

In Islamabad, foreign office spokesman Abdul Basit said on Saturday that Zardari will invite Singh to visit Pakistan by the end of this year during their meeting in New Delhi.

"President Zardari will invite Prime Minister Singh to visit Pakistan by the end of this year," Basit said.

M Zulqernain in Lahore