Modi makes surprise stopover in Lahore

PM, Nawaz Sharif hold talks to resume bilateral ties

Modi makes surprise stopover in Lahore
Taking everyone by surprise, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a stopover in Lahore on Friday and held talks with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.

Modi was received by Sharif at the airport and the two leaders flew in a civilian helicopter to the Pakistan prime minister’s ancestral home of Jati Umra Raiwind, on the outskirts of Lahore, to attend Sharif’s granddaughter Mehrun Nisa’s wedding.

Modi was received by Sharif’s family, including son Hasan and his ageing mother. Modi also reportedly touched Sharif’s mother’s feet.

After blessing the bride, the two leaders sat down to have a round of discussions on the resumption of bilateral ties. Modi was accompanied by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar.

Spontaneous meeting
“It was a spontaneous meeting. I was lucky to be in Lahore on Friday or would have missed the meeting,” Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said.

This is the second meeting between the two leaders within a month as they held a round of talks on the sidelines of the Paris climate summit on November 30.

The move came within weeks after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj flew to Islamabad to meet her counterpart Sartaj Aziz and Sharif for resumption of the talks.
“It was decided to begin a dialogue with Pakistan under the new title ‘Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue.’ The foreign secretaries have been tasked to work out modalities and schedule of the meetings under the new dialogue,” Sushma informed Parliament on December 14.

As it was expected that Modi’s first visit to Pakistan would come by the end of 2016 for the Saarc summit, the prime minister’s afternoon tweets took everybody by surprise. “Looking forward to meeting PM Nawaz Sharif in Lahore today (Friday) afternoon, where I will drop by on my way back to Delhi,” he tweeted soon after his address in Kabul. “Spoke to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and wished him on his birthday,” he said in another tweet.

The last visit to Pakistan by an Indian prime minister was in 2004 by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, whose 91st birthday fell on Friday.

“Welcome to Pakistan @narendramodi. Constant engagement is the only way to resolve all outstanding issues,” Opposition leader and PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari tweeted.

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