Zardari drops in at Nitish dinner; lauds 'Bihar model'

What was supposed to be a relatively routine dinner hosted for Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and his delegation in Islamabad turned into a special occasion when Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari unexpectedly decided to attend the dinner, during which he praised Kumar and his model of governance.

At the dinner, hosted by Indian deputy high commissioner Gopal Bagley at a hotel on Tuesday, Zardari appreciated Kumar's "Bihar model of development" with its emphasis on social sector development, particularly in education, healthcare and community development.

Former cricketer Imran Khan, who heads the opposition Tehreek-e-Insaaf party, has also praised the the Bihar chief minister, whose Janata Dal (United) rules Bihar in partnership with the Bhariatiya Janata Party, in an interview in September this year.

Kumar's visit to Islamabad followed a whirlwind tour of the Sindh province. Zardari also said that Pakistan wished to have "friendly, cooperative and good neighbourly relations" with India as there were tremendous opportunities for the two countries to enhance cooperation for their mutual benefit.

"We want the peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes for lasting peace in the region," Zardari said.

He also referred to the Benazir Income Support Programme, Pakistan's flagship poverty alleviation scheme named after his late wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto, which has earned praise from Kumar, who said India could learn from the experiences of the Pakistan government on this crucial front.