Pakistan PM arrives in India to 'open arms' welcome

JAIPUR (AFP) - Pakistan's premier Raja Pervez Ashraf arrived in India on Saturday for a pilgrimage to a revered Muslim shrine, with Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid welcoming him with "open arms".

Mr Khurshid's warm words for Mr Ashraf - making his first visit to India as prime minister - come despite strained relations between the nuclear-armed rivals over recent border clashes.

"It's in our culture to welcome our guests with open arms," said Mr Khurshid ahead of a lunch he will host for Mr Ashraf at the Rambagh Palace, a luxury heritage hotel in the tourist city of Jaipur in northern India.

An Indian foreign ministry official told AFP however there would be no "substantive talks" at the meeting.

"India is happy to host a lunch for the Pakistani prime minister. We are just extending our hospitality," a senior Indian foreign ministry official told AFP.

Mr Ashraf is the most senior Pakistani to visit India since last April when President Asif Ali Zardari made a similar pilgrimage and had lunch with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Mr Ashraf and his family planned a day-long private trip to the 13-century shrine of Sufi saint Hazrat Khwaja Gharib Nawaz in Ajmer, 130 km from Jaipur.

Tensions spiked between New Delhi and Islamabad in January and February as a total of six soldiers were killed in exchanges along the de facto border in Kashmir, a region claimed by both countries.

Four of the soldiers killed were from Pakistan while two were from India.

One of the Indians was beheaded allegedly by Pakistanis.

India, which has fought three wars with Pakistan since independence in 1947, accuses Islamabad of fomenting cross-border militancy - a charge that the Islamic republic rejects.

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