India, Pakistan leaders seek better ties

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Old 09-Apr-2012
India, Pakistan leaders seek better ties

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New Delhi: Nuclear neighbours India and Pakistan yesterday took an important step towards normalising bilateral relations as the leaders of the two countries agreed to resolve their differences.

Visiting Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the 40-minute meeting — their first in nearly three years — was friendly and constructive.

"Relations between India and Pakistan should become normal. That is our common desire. We are ready to find pragmatic solutions to all issues between the two countries," Singh said after the meeting — the first since June 2009, when they met in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg.

Singh said he had accepted an invitation from Zardari to visit Pakistan as soon as mutually convenient dates are worked out.

Talks on terror

"We have had fruitful talks. We spoke on all issues possible. I hope to hold further talks soon with Dr Singh on Pakistani soil," said the Pakistan president who stopped over in the Indian capital on his way to visit the Sufi shrine in Ajmer in the western state of Rajasthan.

He was accompanied by his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and several senior ministers, bureaucrats and other family members.

Zardari's visit to India, the first by a Pakistani head of state in seven years, comes amid a thaw in ties that followed the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai. Singh also urged Zardari to take action against the Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed, who India sees as the mastermind of the Mumbai attacks.

Last week, the United States put a $10 million (about Dh36.7 million) bounty on Saeed.

"The leaders discussed terrorism which is a major issue on which the Indian people will judge the progress in bilateral relations… The prime minister also mentioned the activities of Hafiz Saeed," Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told the media.

Zardari told Singh the two sides need to discuss the issue further and this would be likely when their interior secretaries meet in the next few weeks.

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