President Asif Ali Zardari will become the first Pakistani head of state since 2005 to visit arch-rival India on Sunday during a trip that includes lunch with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
During a one-day visit billed as "private" but of great diplomatic significance, Zardari will meet the Indian premier in New Delhi before heading to an important Muslim shrine 350 kilometres (220 miles) southwest of the capital.
The meeting has received a cautious welcome from analysts who see it as a sign of warming relations between the nuclear-armed rivals, but the issue of Pakistani militant activity against India remains deeply problematic.
India continues to press its neighbour to prosecute the alleged perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, blamed on the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba which was founded by hardline Islamist Hafiz Saeed.
Saeed lives openly in Pakistan, where the government says it has insufficient evidence to prosecute him, but his terror links were highlighted recently by a $10-million bounty for his arrest offered by the United States.
"My stance on Saeed is not different from my government," Zardari told reporters on Saturday in Lahore. "My visit to India is of a religious nature and I do not think Manmohan Singh will make me sit (and discuss) only this issue."
The meeting between Zardari and Singh over a lunch including kebabs and curries from all areas of the India, including the disputed region of Kashmir, is seen as a positive step to improve a fragile relation riven with mistrust.
Analysts say little progress can be expected on sensitive topics such as Kashmir, which is divided but claimed by both countries, or the presence of anti-India militant groups in Pakistan.
"Their meeting on Sunday, in Zardari's first visit as president to India, doesn't in itself inspire any great hope," said the Mail Today tabloid on Sunday.
Other reports said the main outcome would be an invitation to Singh to visit Islamabad by the end of the year.
Zardari was due to land in New Delhi at 11:00 am (0530 GMT) and meet Singh at his residence before flying south to the shrine at Ajmer in the afternoon and returning to Islamabad in the evening.
Overshadowing his visit was an avalanche Saturday which smashed into a Pakistan army camp, burying up to 135 people, mostly soldiers, on the de facto border with India.
Pakistani troops were frantically trying to find signs of life in an area near the Siachen glacier, an inhospitable icefield that became the site of fierce fighting between Pakistan and India in 1987.
Accompanying Zardari to India will be a delegation of 40 family members and staff including Interior Minister Rehman Malik, undermining the trip's description as a "private" visit
The Times of India reported that Zardari's 23-year-old son and heir apparent, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, would also join the group.
"This is a largely symbolic occasion and contentious subjects will be avoided," said Brahma Chellaney, an analyst at New Delhi's Centre for Policy Research.
Pakistan's foreign policy is seen as preserve of the powerful military, and Chellaney suggested Zardari wielded little real power in the country.
"You can't have substantive talks with someone who doesn't run anything," he said.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence from British rule in 1947 and also carried out tit-for-tat nuclear tests in 1998.
The two countries came to the brink of conflict most recently in 2001, and tensions again peaked after the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which 166 people were killed in carnage blamed on Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Trade is one area of discussion that the two leaders may find fruitful as Pakistan moves to normalise trade ties by phasing out major restrictions on Indian imports by the end of the year.
In 1996, India granted Pakistan "most preferred nation" trading status, while Pakistan last year agreed in principle to match the move.
The last Pakistan president to visit India was Pervez Musharraf, who also offered prayers at the shrine of sufi saint Moinudin Chishti in Ajmer.
The shrine is one of South Asia's most popular pilgrimage sites, attracting throngs of devotees from across the globe.© ANP/AFP