NEW DELHI: Before they join the other guests at a promising lunch on Sunday, President Asif Ali Zardari and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will meet privately, without aides or even the usual note-takers, on the latter’s request, local reports said on Saturday.
“This was done at New Delhi’s insistence and Islamabad is learnt to have readily agreed to the prime minister’s suggestion,” The Indian Express said. “This opens up the possibility for a ‘more candid conversation’,” it said. More so when there is no ‘agenda’, no outcome documents to be signed.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will be accompanying the Pakistan delegation. The Indian side is exploring the option of inviting Rahul Gandhi for the lunch that Dr Singh will host for Mr Zardari.
Mr Bilawal Zardari’s inclusion in the delegation is being seen as a signal that Mr Zardari wants his son, being groomed as the heir apparent in the party, to be ‘introduced’ to the Indian leadership, The Express said.
Mr Zardari’s 40-member delegation will include Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani who has the experience of several high-level India-Pakistan contacts, including the Agra summit.
Indian Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal will be part of the lunch, since he is the minister-in-waiting for Mr Zardari.
After lunch, Mr Zardari and his team will fly in his plane to Jaipur and from there on IAF choppers to the shrine at Ajmer Sharif. Thedelegation will return to Islamabad on Sunday evening from Jaipur.