Zardari is welcome
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Under his watch, Pakistan took a bold step forward on trade; PM must build on it
It is entirely appropriate that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is hosting Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, who sought a private visit to Ajmer Sharif, in Delhi later this week. The UPA government's decision to receive Zardari in the capital is more than an extension of courtesy to Pakistan's head of state. It signals Delhi's appreciation of Zardari's role in reviving Indo-Pak relations after they went into a deep chill following the outrageous terror attacks on Mumbai at the end of November 2008. Zardari has not only kept faith with his declared agenda of transforming relations with India in the difficult days after 26/11, but has delivered what no previous Pakistani leader dared to articulate — the first big step towards comprehensive normalisation of bilateral trade relations.
Zardari's success in breaking the longstanding political taboo in Pakistan against a commercial opening to India demands that Delhi's political classes re-evaluate the persona and politics of Pakistan's president. When he took charge of the Pakistan Peoples Party after the assassination of his wife and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto at the end of 2007, few were ready to bet on Zardari's ability to navigate the harsh political waters of Pakistan. Disproving his many critics, Zardari not only won the elections in early 2008 but has managed to deflect the many threats to his party and the presidency. He is already the longest-serving civilian president of Pakistan. If he survives until the constitutionally mandated elections in 2013, he might well oversee the first peaceful transition from one elected government to another in Pakistan.