New Delhi, April 3 (IANS) Bolstered by the US unveiling a $10 million bounty for the capture of the Mumbai terror mastermind Hafiz Saeed, India is expected to up pressure for action against the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) chief when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari Sunday.
In the first presidential visit from Pakistan in the last seven years, President Zardari will come to India on a day-long visit. The purpose of the visit is primarily personal, with Zardari planning to offer prayers at the revered Sufi shrine in Ajmer.
However, amid improving ties, Manmohan Singh plans to host lunch for the Pakistani leader in New Delhi and hold talks to review bilateral ties.
The talks are expected to give a renewed momentum to the accident-prone bilateral ties that have recovered from the post-Mumbai low, but continue to suffer from a perception in India that Islamabad has not done enough to bring the perpetrators of 26/11 to justice.
Informed sources say that Indian agencies have witnessed an escalation of anti-India rhetoric by Hafiz Saeed in recent months and have pressed Pakistan again and again to take action against the man New Delhi regards as the architect of the Mumbai terror carnage. Pakistan has, however, tender to shelter behind legal subterfuge, saying there is no evidence against him.
Against this backdrop, Manmohan Singh is expected to convey to Zardari India's strong view on the need for action against Saeed, said the sources.
With the US Monday announcing an award of up to $10 million for information leading to arrest and conviction of Saeed and $2 million for Hafiz Adbul Rahman Makki, under the Rewards for Justice programme, for information on the two terrorists, India's case against Saeed has been further strengthened.
Welcoming the announcement, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna Tuesday said it "reflects the commitment of India and the US to bring perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist attacks to justice and continuing efforts to combat terrorism".
"It also sends a strong signal to LeT as also its members and patrons that the international community remains united in combating terrorism," said Krishna.
However, both sides are keen not to let the long-standing terror issue affect what is otherwise seen as a feel-good visit that seeks to reinforce positive trends in bilateral ties since India and Pakistan resumed their peace process in February last year.
The two leaders are expected to discuss the liberalisation of the visa regime to encourage people-to-people contacts between the two countries.
Meeting in the Maldives on the sidelines of the SAARC summit in November, Manmohan Singh and Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had promised to open a "new chapter" in the history of the troubled India-Pakistan relationship.
Since then, Pakistan has made tangible moves in the direction of granting India the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) trading status and a Pakistan's judicial team visited India in connection with investigation into the 26/11 attacks.
Manmohan Singh had met Gilani met on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul last week and welcomed an upturn in bilateral ties. In that meeting, Manmohan Singh exhorted Gilani to do something together substantive that could set the stage for his visit to Islamabad.
Zardari is expected to renew an invitation to Manmohan Singh to visit Islamabad.
(Manish Chand can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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