Indian and Pakistani premiers express hopes for better relations

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In February we posted news of the ongoing meetings between peace-loving people in India and Pakistan, and the views of Fatima Bhutto and Imran Khan who wrote about the empathy between the people of India and Pakistan, arbitrarily divided after Independence, stressing how warmly they are received in India.

Earlier this month, Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s president, made the first visit to India by a Pakistani head of state in seven years, accompanied by his son, Bilawal, who is co-chair of the ruling Pakistan’s People’s party.

Financial Times columnists describe this as “taking a symbolic step towards unwinding decades of tension between the nuclear-armed rival states.” They observe that the meeting is being closely watched by the US, which hopes that reduced tensions might bolster stability in Afghanistan.

India’s president Manmohan Singh said “The relations between India and Pakistan should become normal. That is our common desire. We have a number of issues and we are willing to find tactical, pragmatic solutions to them.” Mr Zardari said Pakistan wanted better relations and he hopes that another meeting will take place on Pakistani soil very soon.

The recent deaths of more than 100 Pakistani troops buried by an avalanche in the Siachen glacier in northern Kashmir were grim reminders of the failure of both sides to resolve their dispute over the region.

In the past year, Pakistani and Indian officials have been trying to improve trade volumes. Both countries are working on improving facilities at the Wagah border crossing near the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore and Pakistan has pledged to expand access to Indian goods.

However a series of rallies has been held in Pakistani cities, demanding a solution of the Kashmir question before Pakistan opens its markets.

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