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Zardari reaches Delhi on day-long visit to India

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said after meeting with Asif Ali Zardari that talks on bilateral issues with the Pakistan President were "constructive and friendly". Power and petrol offer awaits Zardari | Saeed buzz ahead of visit | Bilawal's Facebook fans discuss India

delhi Updated: Apr 08, 2012 14:03 IST

In a first visit by a Pakistan President in seven years, Asif Ali Zardari arrived in New Delhi on Sunday for a brief stopover to join Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a lunch that will be preceded by a one-on-one meeting during which they will discuss crucial bilateral issues.

Zardari, who landed here at 12.10 pm at Palam Air Force Base (technical area) along with his son and heir apparent Bilawal Bhutto, interior minister Rehman Malik and some senior officials, was received by minister-in-waiting PK Bansal, foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai and Pakistan high commissioner Shahid Malik among others.

Attired in a dark coloured business suit, Zardari waved at the mediamen but did not oblige them with any comments. He straight drove to the Prime Minister's official Race Course Road residence.

Parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Kumar Bansal on Sunday received him at the airport in the Captital. Bansal will also accompany Zardari to the Ajmer shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.

Zardari headed straight to the Prime Minister's official residence at 7 Race Course Road for talks.

Manmohan Singh and Zardari shook hands warmly and smiled before the cameras as they began talks that are expected to infuse a new life into bilateral ties.

The talks, which are being held at the prime minister's 7 Race Course Road official residence, are expected to last for close to an hour, government sources said.

The two leaders are expected to discuss all issues with focus on trade and confidence-building measures.

Earlier on the day, Zardari's special aircraft took off from the Old Lahore airport, which is near the international airport and mainly used for VIP and military flights. There was special security arrangement at the airport.

After his meeting with Manmohan Singh, Zardari will leave for Jaipur and from there take a chopper to the shrine, about 12 km away from Ajmer. He is scheduled to spend about half an hour at the shrine and return to Jaipur by 6.15 pm, an official said.

The Pakistan president's helicopter is to land in Ajmer at 4.10 pm, the official said.

The shrine will also be vacated when the Zardari entourage arrives and during the time when the Pakistani president offers his prayers in the presence of khadims and other members of the shrine board.

Security has been tightened including deployment of special units atop high-rise buildings and along the route that Zardari and his entourage take Sunday during their almost six-hour visit to the national capital and at Ajmer's revered shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.

Around 2,000 police personnel have been deployed for Zardari's visit to New Delhi, while the Rajasthan city of Ajmer has already been turned into a fortress for the Pakistani president who along with his son Bilawal and others will offer prayers at the Sufi shrine.

First Published: Apr 08, 2012 11:28 IST