Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a visit that has been described as private but diplomatically significant.
The first visit by a Pakistani leader to India in seven years has raised hopes of a thaw in relations between the two bitter rivals.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for lunch in New Delhi on Sunday, before visiting a famous Muslim shrine in the northwestern state of Rajasthan.
The meeting lasted 40 minutes and although the one-day trip was described as a “private” visit, observers said it was of great diplomatic significance. Among other things, the Pakistani prime minister used the meeting to invite the Indian prime minister for a return visit, which Singh accepted.
“We would like to have better relations with India. We have spoken on all topics that we could have spoken about and we are hoping to meet on Pakistani soil very soon, Zardari told reporters at a joint press conference.
“We have a number of crises and we are willing to find practical, pragmatic solutions to all these crises and that's the message President Zardari and I would wish to convey,” the Indian prime minister said.
Relations between the nuclear powers were particularly strained following the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which left 166 people dead. The attacks were blamed on the Islamist militant Hafiz Seed, who lives openly in Pakistan. India says it has provided Pakistan with enough evidence to prosecute the alleged mastermind of the attacks, but Islamabad says it is insufficient to take action.
An issue that is said to have been discussed is the disputed region of Kashmir, which is claimed by both India and Pakistan. The two countries have fought two of their three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947 over the Himalayan region.
pfd/ccp (Reuters AFP, dpa)