India's Prime Minister Agrees To Visit Pakistan

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Sunday after meeting Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari that he would make an official visit to Pakistan soon, the latest small gesture between the countries' leaders meant to foster better relations.

NEW DELHI—Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Sunday after meeting Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari that he would make an official visit to Pakistan soon, the latest small gesture between the countries' leaders meant to foster better relations.

Mr. Singh gave no time frame for his visit, which would be his first since coming to power in 2004. New Delhi is likely to want to see Pakistan take concrete steps to clamp down on militant groups that have regularly attacked India, most recently in 2008, before committing to a date.

But Mr. Singh's decision to accept the formal invitation from Mr. Zardari, who himself was on his first trip to India since becoming president four years ago, signals a shift in tone between the nuclear-armed neighbors. It is also the latest in baby steps the nations have been taking to normalize ties after 10 Pakistan gunmen attacked Mumbai in 2008, killing more than 160 people and ending in one blow a four-year effort to build peace.

The crux to a long-standing detente would be a deal over Kashmir, the Himalayan territory divided between Pakistan and India and claimed in its entirety by both.

Both sides realize the issue, which dates to the founding of the nations in 1947, isn't easy to solve. So they have focused instead on less-complex areas like trade and efforts to streamline the issuance of visas to each other's citizens.

Pakistan committed earlier this year to normalize trading relations with India before the end of 2012. It was likely this recent progress on trade that created some political space for Mr. Singh to accept Mr. Zardari's invitation to visit Pakistan.

"Relations between India and Pakistan should become normal," Mr. Singh said after a 40-minute meeting with Mr. Zardari on Sunday morning in New Delhi.

Still, both sides were careful to play down Mr. Zardari's visit, which was billed as a private trip. The Pakistan leader, after meeting Mr. Singh, traveled to an important 13th century Muslim shrine in Rajasthan state.

Indian officials said Mr. Singh raised the prickly issue of Pakistan-based militant groups with Mr. Zardari during their talks.

Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said Mr. Singh had broached India's demands for the arrest of Hafiz Saeed, a Pakistani whom the U.S. and India allege was behind the Mumbai attacks, in which six Americans also died.

The U.S. last week issued up to a $10 million bounty for information leading to Mr. Saeed's capture and conviction. U.S. and Indian officials have expressed anger at Pakistan's failure to detain Mr. Saeed, who continues to address public meetings of Islamists.

The leaders on Sunday also addressed efforts to resolve a long-running territorial dispute over Sir Creek, a marshland which divides the Indian state of Gujarat from the Pakistani province of Sindh.

And Mr. Singh offered assistance to help find the 135 Pakistani soldiers that are missing after an avalanche Saturday on Siachen Glacier, another Himalayan territory over which both nations have competing claims.