India media welcome Pakistani President Zardari's trip

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari (left) and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meet in Delhi on 8 April 2012 Image copyright AFP
Image caption The two leaders held one-to-one talks

The Indian media has welcomed Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari's talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his rare visit to India on Sunday.

One newspaper said the "real test" for the two leaders "begins now" and there were "enough spoilers on either side to limit the possibilities".

It was the first visit to India by a Pakistani head of state in seven years. The two men last met in 2009 in Russia.

Mr Singh said he had accepted an invitation to visit Pakistan.

After talks with Mr Singh, Mr Zardari visited a Muslim shrine in Ajmer, 350km (220 miles) south-west of the Indian capital.

The Indian Express said that the meeting between the two leaders had "gone according to the script".

"The lull in cross-border attacks and Mr Zardari's bold liberalisation of Pakistan's trade policy towards India provided the positive political context," the newspaper wrote.

"So far so good. The real test for Mr Singh and Mr Zardari, however, begins now. There are enough spoilers on either side to limit the possibilities."

The newspaper said that the army, militant groups in Pakistan and Mr Zardari's political opponents may come in the way of normalising relations between the two countries.

'Lofty symbolism'

In India, Mr Singh could be constrained by "conservative elements" in his Congress party, the Hindu nationalist main opposition BJP, and the "habitual hawks" in the bureaucracy.

Writing in The Hindu, analyst Saeed Naqvi said the "loftier symbolism" of Mr Zardari's visit was the appearance of a large Pakistani delegation at the shrine in Ajmer, which is dedicated to a Sufi saint, Moinuddin Chishti, and is one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in the region.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Zardari visited a shrine dedicated to a Sufi saint in Rajasthan

"[It] will strike a chord with an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis who are more comfortable with the soft, humane message of the Sufis..."

The Hindustan Times said the Indian prime minister had "re-asserted his political position by engaging Pakistani leaders in a process aimed at resolving outstanding issues in a 'step-by-step' incremental manner".

The Asian Age said that the lunch between the two leaders had a "positive feel".

"After the improvement in trade relations, marked by Pakistan recently agreeing to India's long-standing demand of barring only those Indian goods that are on a negative list, Mr Zardari's lunch with the prime minister in a conducive atmosphere in the Indian capital will push the sense along that the mood is not one of hostility, although Islamabad has done little to bring the Mumbai attackers to justice," the newspaper said.

While the two leaders met for lunch in private, a wide range of issues is said to have been discussed.

According to reports, the two leaders agreed that their home secretaries would meet soon to discuss the issue of Hafiz Saeed, head of the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Mr Saeed is accused of masterminding the 2008 militant attacks on Mumbai and Washington has announced a $10m (£6.3m) bounty for his arrest.

India says it has given Pakistan enough evidence to prosecute him but Pakistan says it needs "concrete evidence" before it can launch any legal proceedings.

Relations between the two countries have been gradually improving since peace talks were derailed after the Mumbai attacks.

Mr Zardari recently backed the lifting of trade restrictions on India, and Pakistan is also talking of dropping a restrictive list of what products it will buy from India.

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