For India, An Unclear Visit From Pakistan's President

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Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari is scheduled to make a one-day visit to India on Sunday, April 8. It's the first visit by a Pakistani president since 2005. However Zardari's trip is being described as a personal visit in an attempt to keep expectations low and to allow both sides room to avoid confronting difficult issues, such as Indian demands that Pakistan do more to fight terrorism. Elliot Hannon reports from New Delhi.


If you're just joining us, you're listening to WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Laura Sullivan.

The relationship between India and Pakistan has always been contentious, but there's momentum building to change that. On Sunday, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari is scheduled to visit India in an effort to build trust between the two countries. Elliot Hannon reports from New Delhi.

ELLIOT HANNON, BYLINE: When the leaders of India and Pakistan get together, there's always an air of intrigue. So when President Zardari scheduled what's being called a personal visit to India on Sunday, analysts on both sides of the border tried to decipher what the visit might actually mean. Although India and Pakistan's relationship has never been warm, there has been a slow thaw of late. And earlier this year, the two countries agreed in principle to normalize trade relations. That's reflective of a broader change happening in Pakistan, says Najam Sethi, editor of The Friday Times, a newspaper in Lahore.

NAJAM SETHI: There is a change in civil society, in politicians, amongst the business community - all of them have now finally realize the folly of a policy that was followed earlier, which was, no trade, enmity with India, build up the armed forces and have a national security state based on fear and loathing. That is changing.

HANNON: In India, however, skepticism remains over how much the Pakistani government can actually deliver. And while there has been some progress, the primary obstacle for India remains terrorism, says G. Parthasarathy, the former Indian Ambassador to Pakistan.

G. PARTHASARATHY: I have no reason to doubt the intentions of the elected civilian government. But I don't buy the excuse that it's hard for the military to close the tap on its support for terrorist groups.

HANNON: While any major announcement seems unlikely, there is some optimism that the meeting on Sunday, at the very least, will help build momentum. For NPR News, I'm Elliot Hannon in New Delhi.

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