Pakistan leader visits India for talks

Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf, has arrived in India, saying he came with a message of peace and hoped the South Asian nuclear rivals would be able to resolve their decades-old differences over Kashmir.

    General Pervez Musharraf is in India for a three-day visit

    "We have prayed that in the times to come, all differences between India and Pakistan are resolved and peace returns," he told reporters on Saturday after visiting the shrine of a revered Muslim sufi figure. He is in India for a three-day visit, with a series of meetings squeezed around a cricket match between the two countries.

    Instead of the traditional gift of a sword, Musharraf was offered a bouquet of flowers at the shrine - a goodwill gesture for the India-Pakistan peace process. "We have come here with a message of peace and unity," Musharraf said.

    "We want people in my country, Pakistan, and your country, India, to prosper. This can be only done through peace. I hope our prayers will be answered."

    Meeting Singh

    Musharraf flew into Jaipur, the capital of northwestern Rajasthan state, and left immediately in an Indian military helicopter for the city of Ajmer to worship at the shrine of 12th century Sufi mystic Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. Later on Saturday, he was to fly to New Delhi for a dinner hosted by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

    During his visit, Musharraf is to have at least three meetings with Singh, watch a cricket match between the two countries and meet leaders of an umbrella group of political parties from the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir. The talks are part of a sweeping peace process.

    "We are looking forward to a very friendly and successful visit with constructive and forward-looking results"

    Shyam Saran,
    Indian foreign secretary

    "It will be an informal, relaxed visit, celebrating the cricketing bonds between the two countries and at the same time taking advantage of this opportunity to engage in a very wide-ranging and fruitful dialogue," Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran told reporters in New Delhi.

    "We are looking forward to a very friendly and successful visit with constructive and forward-looking results," Saran said as Musharraf was leaving Ajmer for New Delhi. Since gaining independence from Britain in 1947, India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir, which is divided between them. Both claim the entire Himalayan territory.

    International attention

    The long-simmering dispute gained international attention after the two countries conducted nuclear weapon tests in 1998, raising fears that another conflict could escalate into a nuclear war.

    More than 66,000 people have
    died in the Kashmir conflict

    Musharraf last visited India in 2001 for a summit at the city of Agra with then-Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. But the two leaders failed to reach any agreement on Kashmir.

    New Delhi accuses Islamabad of arming and training insurgents and helping them cross into India's portion of Kashmir. Pakistan says it gives political and moral support to the rebels, but denies providing military support. More than 66,000 people have died in the conflict in the past 15 years.

    The two countries have come under international pressure to peacefully sort out their differences, a process they began last year with a dialogue intended to resolve all issues, including Kashmir.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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