Modi makes surprise visit to Pakistan on Sharif’s birthday

(From Dawn with agencies)

Indian premier Narendra Modi landed at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport Friday on a surprise visit, where Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif were present to receive him.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a meeting with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi at Jai Umra in Raiwind

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (R) in a meeting with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi at Sharif’s Jati Umra home in Raiwind

This is the first time an Indian premier has visited Pakistan in more than a decade.

Television footage showed Modi exit his jet and embrace PM Sharif, after which the two heads flew in a helicopter to Sharif’s private residence in Raiwind.

At the Jati Umra farmhouse, Sharif introduced Modi to his aides before talks between the two sides.

Modi presented an Indian dress to Sharif’s granddaughter Meherun Nisa whose marriage ceremony is scheduled later in the day.

He also presented Indian shawls to Sharif’s wife Kulsoom Nawaz.

“Beyond the noise, a personal connect. The Prime Ministers discuss #IndiaPakistan relations in Raiwind,” the official MEA handle tweeted, posting photos of the meeting.

December 25 is Sharif’s birthday and also the birth anniversary of Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Earlier, the visit itself was announced in a novel way – on Twitter. Modi said he would stop over in Lahore on his way to New Delhi from Afghanistan.

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, responding to Modi’s announcement, said on Twitter: “That’s like a statesman. Such should be the relationship between neighbours.”

However, India’s major opposition party, Congress, questioned Modi’s visit to Pakistan, saying serious information like this should not have been revealed through Twitter.

“It is unfortunate that we get to know about prime minister’s visit through a tweet… India and Pakistan relations are not so good as yet that he stops over there on his way back from another country,” Congress spokesperson Ajoy Kumar said.

Congress leader Manish Tewari called it an “adventure” by the Indian prime minister.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz told the National Assembly that the foreign secretaries of Pakistan and India will meet soon to discuss modalities regarding the bilateral dialogue which will include matters related to peace and security, Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, Wullar Barrage, Tulbul Navigation Project, economic and commercial cooperation, counter-terrorism, narcotics control and humanitarian issues, people to people exchanges and religious tourism. Read More


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