ISLAMABAD - President Asif Ali Zardari will visit Ajmer Sharif in India next Sunday (April 8) on a private visit to the shrine of Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti, Aiwan-e-Sadr sources said here on Sunday.

According to a statement issued by spokesperson to the President Senator Farhatullah Babar, the President has also accepted the invitation of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for lunch in New Delhi en route to Ajmer Sharif. The President will return to Islamabad the same day.

Monitoring Desk adds: According to PTI, this will be the first visit to India by a Pakistani head of State since 2005, when then President Pervez Musharraf had travelled to New Delhi.

“The President has accepted the invitation of Indian Prime Minister for lunch in New Delhi en route to Ajmer Sharif on April 8,” presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said. The visit comes against the backdrop of several steps taken by India and Pakistan in recent months to normalise bilateral relations, especially in trade. Zardari and Singh had last met on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Russia in 2009.

Earlier in the day, Pakistani officials told PTI that a request for a private visit by President Zardari to Ajmer had been forwarded to the Indian side. The government had kept the visit under wraps as it was originally intended to be a ‘purely private’ matter, Indian officials said.

Though the visit was supposed to be devoid of political or diplomatic content, the officials had not ruled out the possibility of some official meetings as a Pakistani head of State would be visiting India after a long gap.

Zardari’s India visit is intended to be purely for religious purposes. However, the Indian government is looking at the possibility to add some political discussions during his day-long visit. “While as of now, the visit is purely for religious purposes, efforts are being made so that some political discussions could also take place during the day-long trip of Zardari,” sources in Delhi said earlier in the day.