Manmohan-Zardari meet: key takeaways
President Asif Ali Zardari became the first Pakistani head of state since 2005 to visit India.
President Asif Ali Zardari became the first Pakistani head of state since 2005 to visit India. Zardari's 'unofficial' one-day trip along with his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was marked by pragmatic politics and a common will to strengthen bilateral relations despite bitter differences. The relations between the two arch rivals had frozen since the Mumbai attacks. Although no formal agreement was signed between the two leaders, they agreed on the following:
1. PM Manmohan Singh is likely to travel to Pakistan. Significantly, Singh didn't use the phrase he used when a similar invitation was extended by Pakistan PM Yousuf Raza Gilani last year. Singh had then said he will visit Pakistan "when there is something concrete" for Pakistan to offer, which basically meant when Pakistan is serious about bringing the 26/11 culprits to book. Instead, with Zardari, the PM's response was: "at a mutually convenient date", which clearly is a departure from India's tough stand.
2. The two leaders also agreed to liberalize the visa regime between the two nations. The liberalization of the visa rules will be signed by Home Secretaries of the two nations at their meeting this month.
3. PM Manmohan Singh also brought up the contentious issue of Hafiz Saeed and his role in the Mumbai attacks in his talks with Zardari. The pace of the 26/11 trial in Pakistan is also to be discussed by the Home Secretaries.
4. Progress in trade between the two nations was also discussed. Zardari said India and Pakistan should mirror the India-China model under which the contentious border disputes are discussed separately without affecting the trade relations between the two nations.
5. India and Pakistan also agreed that the dispute over Sir Creek is resolvable and could happen this year.
6. India also offered Pakistan any help with the Siachen search and rescue operation in which almost 135 Pakistani soldiers have been missing in an avalanche.
Besides the above-mentioned points, the analysts and experts of the India-Pakistan relations add the following:
7. The atmosphere of goodwill and personal ties between the two nations will be reaffirmed.
8. A confidence boost will be provided to Indian businessmen trying to do cross-border business with Pakistan.
9. The act by Asif Ali Zardari of visiting an Indian sufi shrine has sent a 'moderate' message to the Pakistanis. The fact that Zardari came to India despite radical groups asking him to cancel the trip has sent positive feelers in both the nations.