Pakistan Premier to Visit India After Border Clashes Soured Ties

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf will visit India tomorrow on a private trip days before leaving office and as recent military clashes between the neighbors overshadowed improving economic ties.

Ashraf will be on a daylong visit to a Sufi Muslim shrine in Rajasthan, the first to India by a Pakistani leader in almost a year. While there will be no official talks, he’ll have lunch with India’s Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid.

“No purpose is going to be served having a long discussion as Ashraf won’t be in office after a week and is unlikely to come to power again,” said Sushant Sareen, an analyst at the New Delhi-based Vivekananda International Foundation, a regional research group headed by retired Indian government and military officials. Pakistan will appoint a caretaker government this month ahead of May elections.

Ashraf’s visit comes after India and Pakistan in January and February engaged in some of their most serious cross-border skirmishes in almost a decade in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir. Troops from both armies died and envoys were summoned in each country’s capital.

Khurshid in January warned there could be no return “to business as usual” after what he said was Pakistan’s failure to fully investigate the incidents. Pakistan denied its troops crossed the de facto frontier and accused New Delhi of engaging in propaganda.

Zardari Trailing

The two countries, each of which have nuclear arsenals, resumed peace talks in 2011 more than two years after they were broken off following the attack by Pakistani militants on Mumbai that killed 166 people. India says the strike was carried out by the Lashkar-e-Taiba guerrilla group with the support of some members of Pakistan’s security establishment.

While Pakistan denies the charge of state involvement, it has begun a closed trial of some Lashkar members. India says it’s not doing enough.

The two countries have eased visa restrictions and taken steps to raise cross-border commerce. Sporting ties have also resumed, with Pakistan’s cricket team touring India in December and January.

Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said Ashraf will be accompanied by his family and no “substantive discussions” are scheduled for his meeting with Khurshid in Jaipur.

Ashraf, who took over as prime minister when his predecessor was found in contempt of the Supreme Court and ousted, heads a government led by the Pakistan Peoples Party of President Asif Ali Zardari. Public confidence in Zardari’s administration stood at 23 percent in October last year, according to pollster Gallup. The survey had a margin of error of around 4 percent.

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