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Pakistani president in first state visit to India for seven years

Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani president, met India's prime minister in New Delhi yesterday in the first state visit for seven years, raising hopes for further reconciliation between the nuclear rivals.

Manmohan Singh and Mr Zardari held a state meeting that focused on moves to liberalise trade and boost confidence by increasing co-operation against terrorism.

"We have a number of issues and we are willing to find practical and pragmatic solutions," Mr Singh said.

Mr Zardari said that their discussions had been "fruitful". Relations between the neighbours have gradually improved.

They reached breaking point after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, when India accused Pakistan's security establishment of supporting a suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba commando plot.

The US put a $10m(€7.63m) bounty on Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the group's founder, who operates openly in Pakistan. The bounty, which was applauded by India, was expected to increase tensions with Pakistan.

Trade between the neighbours has increased slowly and Pakistan has pledged to confer most favoured nation trading status on Pakistan to boost business further. There has been speculation that India may approve cross-border petrol exports and a liberalisation of visa restrictions.

Mr Singh indicated that he would accept an invitation to visit Pakistan at a "convenient time" rather than in the near future. Mr Zardari insisted that the two sides should resolve their decades-old disputes over the Sir Creek river estuary, Siachen and Kashmir, said Ranjan Mathai, India's foreign secretary.

Despite the differences, the two leaders emphasised the importance of keeping up the momentum of the dialogue process that started last year. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent