New Delhi/Islamabad: Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari's visit to India to pray at
the Sufi shrine at Ajmer Sharif is quite significant, said
analysts in Pakistan and India who hoped that it will lead to
"concrete steps like easing of visas", to say the very least.
Zardari will visit the shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer
Sunday after meeting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over a
working lunch at the latter's official residence.
Pakistan's former foreign secretary Shaharyar M. Khan hoped that
the visit will lead to implementation to the "many statements and
speeches" made by the prime ministers of both countries.
"There should be concrete steps like easing of visas and exchanges
at various levels," Khan told IANS over phone from Islamabad.
Khan, who was foreign secretary, a post he held for four years
between 1990 and 1994 when he retired, said the trip was a "very
good opportunity to move forward".
He said concrete steps must be taken at two levels -- one is the
public level and the other diplomatic.
"For the people, there should be concrete steps like easing of
visas and exchanges at various levels. The confidence building
measures must also be at the diplomatic level," he said.
He added: "Kashmir is very important and should be part of the
Khan suggested that meetings must take place between the military.
"They can meet at the Wagah border... it will be good."
Ashraf Azim, president of Pakistan-based Institute of Regional
Studies, told IANS on phone from Islamabad, that even though it is
primarily for religious purpose, President Zardari's trip is
"This will give a new impetus to bilateral ties," Azim said adding
that it would make the peace process even better.
He said: "Even as he (Zardari) sets his foot on Indian soil, there
would be an opportunity...."
This (the trip) needs to be "looked at positively", he said.
The visit provides an opportunity for talks between Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh and Zardari, who last met on the sidelines of the
Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Yekaterinburg in
Russia in 2009.
Manmohan Singh will hold one-on-one talks with Zardari before the
two sit down for lunch at the Indian prime minister's official
residence Sunday. Zardari will reach India with a 40-member
delegation that includes Interior Minister Rehman Malik, close
family members of the president and senior journalists.
Ashok Behuria, of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses in
New Delhi, said Pakistanis are riled by the lack of official
visits from India, with the last visit being undertaken by then
prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in 2004.
"Establishing contact is the way to go forward," Behuria told IANS
while referring to the need for chemistry between the two leaders,
of the kind that has developed between Manmohan Singh and his
Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani.
Behuria stressed that the trip "matters a lot".
Zardari will become the first Pakistani president to visit India
after Pervez Musharraf last came to India in 2005.
Behuria spoke about cricket diplomacy and said: "Any talk will
Gilani came to Mohali to watch the World Cup semi-final match in
Mohali, Punjab in March last year. Rajiv Gandhi had played host to
Pakistani military dictator Zia ul-Haq at an India-Pakistan match
in Jaipur in 1987.
Savita Pande, a professor of international relations at the
Jawaharlal Nehru University, explained that this trip should be
seen in the backdrop of Commerce Minister Anand Sharma's visit to
Anand Sharma was the first ever Indian trade minister to lead a
business delegation of more than 100 Indian companies when he went
on a four-day trip to Pakistan in February this year.
Pande said: "Talks (betwen our countries) are never bad...
(whether) they lead to anything is difficult to say."
(Rahul Dass can
be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)