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Sonia skips Manmohan, Zardari luncheon meet at 7 RCR

New Delhi, Sun, 08 Apr 2012 ANI

New Delhi, Apr 8 (ANI): Congress President has reportedly skipped the luncheon meeting hosted by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh in honour of the visiting Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardarai at the former's official residence, 7 Race Course Road.

No official reason has, however, been given to explain Gandhi's absence from the meeting.

According to reports, senior UPA Ministers, including Pranab Mukherjee, A K Antony, S M Krishna and P Chidambaram, have already reached 7 RCR along with Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi.

Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) veteran Lal Krishna Advani have reached Manmohan Singh's residence for today's meeting.

Zardari, who landed here at 12.10 pm at Palam Air Force Base (technical area) along with his son Bilawal Bhutto, Interior Minister Rehman Malik and some senior officials, is meeting Dr. Singh over lunch during his three-hour stopover in Delhi.

Zardari, who is on his first visit to India as Pakistan's President, was received by minister-in-waiting P K Bansal, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai and Pakistan High Commissioner to India, Shahid Malik, among others earlier in the day.

Zardari's first visit to India as President assumes significance, as it will provide a chance to promote bilateral ties between both sides.

According to media reports, the US bounty on Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Mohammad Hafiz Saeed is likely to be the prime focus of the talks between Zardari and Dr. Singh, who will be meeting after almost three years.

The two leaders had last met on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Russia in 2009.

Though Zardari's visit is personal in nature, it is bound to have ramification on the relations between the two nations.

New Delhi had suspended the peace process between the two sides after the commando-style militant attacks in India' commercial capital Mumbai in 2008, by Pakistan-based militants, which caused the death of 166 people.

Since then, officials from the two nations have met to improve ties, but have shied away from resuming the dialogue that included resolving key differences, including dispute over Jammu and Kashmir.

Zardari will be flying off to Ajmer later in the day to pay obeisance at the shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. He had earlier visited the sufi saint's shrine in 2005, with his wife, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto.

Benazir, who was assassinated on December 27, 2007, was a firm believer of Chishti.

India and Pakistan, which have fought three wars since their independence from British rule in 1947, have been slowly trying to repair relations and agreed to resume formal peace talks broken off in the wake of the Mumbai attack in 2008. (ANI)

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