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Pakistan president in India for bilateral summit

NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, arrived in India on Saturday for a state visit, marking the first time in more than a decade that a Pakistani head of state has stepped on Indian soil.

Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee plan to begin a summit on Sunday, and Musharraf has said he wants to focus the discussion on the disputed region of Kashmir.

"For m ore than half a century, the Kashmir dispute has cast a shadow on relations between Pakistan and India," Musharraf said in a statement.

He said he would urge India to "join hands with us in resolving this dispute in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people. This will facilitate resolution of other issues and lead to a full normalization or relations."

Indian President K.R. Narayanan and Vajpayee greeted Musharraf, who then passed before a full ceremonial honor guard.

While Musharraf considers Kashmir the key -- if not the only -- issue for the summit, India has other items for the agenda, including trade, terrorism, the prevention of nuclear accidents, and efforts to curb drug trafficking.

The summit will mark the first talks between India and Pakistan since talks broke off in February 1999, when intruders from Pakistan entered Kashmir, launching a protracted battle that eventually killed 600 Indian soldiers. Vajpayee accused Musharraf of planning the invasion, an accusation the Pakistani president denied.

On Saturday, an afternoon tea party stirred tension when the Pakistani delegation brought along several Kashmiri separatist leaders, angering India. Several senior Indian politicians boycotted the event as a result.

"We believe that Kashmir is the core issue," said Pakistani Foreign Secretary Inamul Haque. "We certainly hope that our Indian neighbors will agree with that."

Vajpayee and Musharraf are to meet Sunday and Monday at a hotel in Agra near the Taj Mahal, the majestic mausoleum built by the Muslim Emperor Shah Jahan for his wife at a time when Muslims ruled most of the subcontinent.

After his arrival on Saturday, Musharraf -- wearing a white "sherwani," the formal dress coat of Pakistan, and accompanied by his wife, Sehba -- visited the cremation site of Mahatma Gandhi, one of the world's most famous apostles of nonviolence, where he laid a wreath of red and white flowers.

In the visitor's book at the Gandhi site, Musharraf wrote that the need for Gandhi's ideals have never "been more severely felt than today, especially in the context of India-Pakistan relations."

The Pakistani president, who was born in India, also visited his old neighborhood and was to meet with his 90-year-old former nanny. Musharraf's family migrated to Pakistan after the post-independence of India partition that created the Muslim-majority nation.

CNN New Delhi Bureau Chief Satinder Bindra contributed to this report.



 
 
 
 



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