PM Modi’s surprise Pakistan stopover, meets Sharif at his Lahore residence; Sushma hails Modi as ‘statesman’

Prime Minister Narendra Modi warmly received by Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif

Lahore, Dec 25: Prime Minister Narendra Modi met his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif at latter’s residence Raiwind Palace, the ancestral home of the Sharifs, here on Friday, after he arrived in Pakistan in a surprise visit this evening following his visits to Russia and Afghanistan.

This is the first visit of Prime Minister Modi to Pakistan after assuming the office. He was accompanied by Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.

“In a first, both PMs flew together in a chopper to Raiwind, home of PM Nawaz Sharif,” tweeted Vikas Swarup, Official Spokesperson, Ministry of External Affairs.

Prime Minister Modi also wished his Pakistani counterpart on his birthday. “Birthday wishes for PM Sharif, best wishes for #IndiaPakistan relations,” tweeted Swarup.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif received his Indian counterpart at Lahore airport. Both the Prime Ministers are expected to hold meeting now.

Earlier this morning, the Prime Minister tweeted greetings to Prime Minister Sharif on his birthday and wished him good health.

The meeting gains significance as it comes two weeks after the South Asian nations agreed to restart peace talks that have stalled since Modi took office.

The leaders have met at international events,most recently in Paris during the global climate change talks, that finally led to a visit by India s foreign minister to Islamabad this month.

Relations between India and Pakistan are ossified and this is like removing one quill at a time. The renewed diplomatic push comes after the massacre in Paris intensified global efforts to root out terrorism as Islamic State militants inspire attacks around the world. Tensions between India and mostly Pakistan risk fueling extremists in South Asia and beyond.

Modi s visit underscores the more overt role India sees in Afghanistan, where the Taliban s advance is complicating a planned withdrawal of US forces. Before the brief meeting in Paris, Modi and Sharif shook hands at a conference in the Russian city of Ufa. The talks in Ufa were the first since Sharif attended Modi’ss inauguration last year.

Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi as ‘statesman’ for his decision to visit Pakistan to meet his counterpart Nawaz Sharif on his birthday.

“That’s like a statesman. Padosi se aise hi rishte hone chahiyen (This is how it should be with neighbours),” External Affairs Minister Swaraj said in a tweet.

The Congress Party however, rejected Swaraj’s claim, saying it was “pre-arranged”.

“We are very clear that the Prime Minister is there to promote only private business interests and not India’s national interest which should be supreme. Diplomacy is serious, it must have gravitas and predictability,” Congress leader Anand Sharma told media here.

“It cannot be frivolous, otherwise it will implode on Shri Narendra Modi’s face,” he said, and rejected Swaraj’s claim that the visit was spontaneous.

(With Agency Inputs)

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