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PM offers Pak help in Siachen avalanche relief

Last updated on: April 08, 2012 15:29 IST
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Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari on Sunday invited Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to visit his country.

Addressing media persons after their 40-minute one-on-one meeting, Zardari, in his short statement, said: "I am grateful to Dr Singh for inviting me for lunch even though I am on a private visit. We have had fruitful talks. During the meeting, we spoke on all issues possible. I hope to hold further talks soon with Dr Singh on Pakistani soil."

Responding to Zardari's statement, Dr Singh said: "I will undertake the trip on a convenient time."

The prime minister told media persons, "Relations between India and Pakistan should become normal. That is out desire. We are ready to find pragmatic solutions to all issues between the two countries."

According to government sources, as predicted by Hamid Mir in his column in, Zardari and Dr Singh have agreed to permit cricket matches between the two countries in Pakistan after monsoon. It is likely that Dr Singh may like to watch the cricket match between the two aggressive teams while sitting in a cricket stadium in Pakistan.

It is also learnt that during the meeting, Singh offered India's assistance in efforts to search for the 135 people, mostly Pakistani soldiers, who were buried under dozens of feet of snow after a massive avalanche slammed into a key army camp in the Siachen sector near the Indian border

Zardari, who landed at Palam Air Force Base (technical area) at 12.10 pm along with his son and heir apparent Bilawal Bhutto, Interior Minister Rehman Malik and some senior officials, was received by minister-in-waiting PK Bansal, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai and Pakistan High Commissioner Shahid Malik, among others.

Attired in a dark-coloured business suit, Zardari waved at the mediamen but did not oblige them with any comments.

Here on a day-long "private visit", the 56-year-old Zardari will fly to Ajmer to pay obeisance at the shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti after his meeting with Singh.

The issue of terrorism and the presence of those involved in anti-India activities in Pakistan figured in the meeting between Zardari and Singh, given that there is a renewed pressure on Islamabad to take action against Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Saeed after the US announcement of $10 million bounty for information leading to the prosecution of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba founder.

The meeting was seen as very significant against the backdrop of improving ties between the two countries with increased Confidence Building Measures to bolster cross-LoC trade.

Zardari and Singh last met in Yekaterinburg in Russia in 2009. Bilawal, who was dressed in a dark pathan suit, also waved at the media.

Within minutes, the convoy of about 25 cars and an ambulance sped off to the prime minister's residence.

The entire route from the technical airport to the 7 RCR residence was sanitized, with heavy police deployment. Delhi police commandos were also roped in.

Just before Zardari landed by a special Pakistan Air Force plane, another Pakistani military aircraft flew in with other members of his delegation.

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.

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