India and Pakistan are set to review their often tense bilateral relations at the highest level on April 8, when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hosts an informal lunch for Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, who will be coming to India on a short private visit.
Zardari will be arriving in New Delhi on Sunday morning with a 40-member delegation. Only one cabinet minister, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, is expected to be part of Zardari’s delegation, which will be comprised mostly of family members. Significantly, though, Singh is expected to have a half hour private meeting with Zardari during his visit.
Singh’s office is said to have toyed with the idea of making Zardari’s visit an official one, but it was decided that an informal approach was best as there simply wouldn’t have been time to put anything politically meaningful together at such short notice.
During the one-on-one session with Zardari, scheduled to be held at the prime minister’s official residence in New Delhi, Singh is expected to raise the issue of Hafiz Saeed, the alleged terrorist who the United States has just placed a $10 million bounty on. Pakistan has repeatedly told India that New Delhi is yet to provide any credible evidence against Saeed, although the Indian government’s consistent position is that it has in fact done so.
No significant announcements are expected after the talks, although the simple fact that the two leaders are meeting in this way is an encouraging sign that the two sides are engaged at the highest level.