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India, Pakistan Discuss Terrorism in Rare Top-Level Meeting

  • Kurt Achin

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (R) shakes hands with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari during a meeting in New Delhi, April 8, 2012.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (R) shakes hands with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari during a meeting in New Delhi, April 8, 2012.

The leaders of India and Pakistan have spoken face to face during a rare shared meal in New Delhi. They talked frankly on subjects ranging from terrorism to disputed Kashmir.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hosted Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari for lunch at his New Delhi residence Sunday, and indicated he may soon reciprocate the Pakistani leader's visit.

"President Zardari has also invited me to visit Pakistan," he said. "I would be very happy to visit Pakistan at a mutually convenient date."

Zardari is on a private visit to India. His stated purpose is to offer prayers at a Sufi shrine in the Indian city of Ajmer, where he headed aboard an Indian military helicopter after lunch with Singh.

President Zardari expressed gratitude for the opportunity to speak face to face with India's leader.

"India and Pakistan are neighbors," said Zardari. "We would like to have better relations with India. We've spoken on all topics that we could have spoken about, and we're hoping to meet on Pakistan soil very soon."

Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai says the luncheon meeting, which lasted about 40 minutes, included discussions of a key irritant in the India-Pakistan relationship.

"The leaders discussed the problem of terrorism, which is a major issue by which the Indian people will judge progress in the bilateral relationship," said Mathai. "We have told President Zardari that it was imperative to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack to justice."

That Mumbai attack, carried out by gunmen in November 2008 and known in India simply as "26/11," killed 166 people at hotels and other sites.

India accuses Pakistan of sheltering planners of the attack, including Hafiz Saeed, founder of the terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba. Last week, the United States put Saeed on the top of its wanted terrorist list, and put out a $10 million bounty offer for anyone who helps secure his arrest. Saeed responded with public taunts from Pakistani territory.

Indian Foreign Secretary Mathai said the Indian prime minister raised the issue at lunch.

"We have also mentioned the activities of Hafiz Saeed"said Mathai. "President Zardari said the matter needed to be discussed further between the two governments."

The chief law enforcement ministers of both countries were scheduled to meet on the issue of the Mumbai attack suspects later Sunday to seek more concrete progress.

Separately, the two leaders discussed disputed Kashmir. India offered to provide humanitarian assistance following an avalanche that buried and killed more than 100 Pakistani soldiers in the disputed Siachen glacier region.

The two sides committed in principle to liberalizing trade and people to people contacts, including looser visa agreements for citizens of India and Pakistan to visit the other.


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