Modi stuns nation by stopping over at Lahore

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on January 22, 2018

Warm welcome Prime Minister Narendra Modi is received by his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on his arrival in Lahore, on Friday   -  PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is greeted by his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on his arrival in Lahore on Friday.   -  PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is greeted by his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on his arrival in Lahore on Friday.   -  PTI

PM’s meeting with Nawaz Sharif prepares ground for forthcoming Secretary-level talks

Creating a diplomatic buzz, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stopped over in Pakistan on his way back from Afghanistan on Friday to meet his counterpart Nawaz Sharif, bringing about a thaw in bilateral relations that have remained frozen after the Mumbai terror attacks. Both Prime Ministers discussed issues concerning Jammu and Kashmir, terrorism and trade.

Springing a surprise earlier in the day, Modi tweeted: “Looking forward to meeting PM Nawaz Sharif in Lahore today afternoon, where I will drop by on my way back to Delhi.” He said he had spoken to Sharif to wish him for his birthday. Later, Modi landed in Lahore and took a chopper to Jati Umra to Sharif’s ancestral home Raiwind Palace. Modi became the first Prime Minister in 11 years to visit Pakistan, after Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s visit in 2004.

During the hour-long meeting, it is learnt that Pakistan raised all “outstanding issues”, with the focus being the Kashmir dispute.

Modi, who was on a two-day tour to Russia, first made a stopover in Kabul to inaugurate the Afghan Parliament building.

Soon after Modi’s tweet, Swaraj tweeted praising Modi’s “statesmanship” underscoring that “this is how relations with neighbours should be”.

Modi was received by Sharif with a hug at the Allama Iqbal Airport. He was accompanied by Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, India’s High Commissioner to Pakistan TCA Raghavan, and industrialist Sajjan Jindal. “It was a good visit. The meeting was held in a very cordial atmosphere. All issues in composite dialogue to be taken up… We need to see the issues and open road of peace. Both countries should address each others’ concerns. They should open avenues of peace. Both civil and military establishments are on the same page,” Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry told the media.

According to a senior Indian official, who refused to be identified, the leaders wanted to ascertain the agenda for the Foreign Secretaries meet next month in Islamabad so as to avoid a diplomatic fiasco as happened last time.

Sanjaya Baru, who was media advisor to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Director for Geo-economics and Strategy, International Institute for Strategic Studies, said as Prime Minister Modi can undertake a surprise visit like this one without any formal planning.

“In fact, this is how South Asian leaders should behave with each other. This brings in the necessary comfort in dealing with your neighbours,” he said.

Kashmir issue

On the issue of Kashmir, India reportedly made it clear to Pakistan that talks will take place bilaterally, without any intervention from Kashmiri separatist leaders. However, Pakistan is said to have maintained that no solution to the Kashmir issue can be found without intervention from people’s representatives there.

In fact, just a day after Swaraj returned to New Delhi after meeting Sharif and his advisor on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, a group of senior Hurriyat leaders had met Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit here and asked him to maintain “consistency and firmness”.

Role of Sajjan Jindal

Amid the hullabaloo, the role of steel baron Sajjan Jindal, who was part of the Prime Minister’s delegation was questioned in some quarters. While neither side spoke of the industrialist’s role, sources said it was the PMO that had asked him to play the role of a “mediator” due to his “personal connections”.

The Congress termed the Modi-Sharif meeting as one aimed at promoting “private business interests”.

Published on December 25, 2015

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