Doval-Janjua laid the ground for visit

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on January 22, 2018

New Delhi: National Security Adviser Ajit Doval addressing at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi on Saturday. PTI Photo by Vijay Kumar Joshi(PTI11_22_2014_000133A)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Pakistan was not a last-minute decision, according to sources.

Even as the Centre remained mum on the issue, highly placed sources said the Lahore visit was discussed between Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Paris earlier this month, when they met on the sidelines of the climate change summit. Then on, it was left to the respective National Security Advisors (NSAs) — Ajit Doval and Nasir Janjua.

In fact, when both the NSAs met in Bangkok this month, the Lahore visit was a “crucial” part of their talks, sources said. While New Delhi had confirmed to Islamabad that Modi would visit Pakistan soon, it was not decided when exactly the visit would happen, a top official told BusinessLine.

Meanwhile, it was the Prime Minister’s Office that took the call of sending External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Islamabad to take part in the ‘Heart of Asia’ meet. Sources said it was during Sushma Swaraj’s visit that Modi’s stopover to Pakistan was confirmed.

However, India had only one condition — that the talks should take place in an “informal manner”. Hence, it was decided that Lahore would be the venue, not Islamabad, the capital city.

In fact, it was also decided that after his stopover in Afghanistan, Modi would head to Lahore directly from there.

Subsequently, all security arrangements and permits were arranged after hectic backchannel work.

However, officials said, the secrecy was tightly maintained even within the Ministry of External Affairs and “not everyone was apprised about” it, while the talks and arrangements took place at the level of foreign secretaries and NSAs in “close coordination” with the PMO.

Sources said this “grand visit” by Modi to Lahore is being seen as warming-up exercise before formal summit-level talks take place with Sharif on the sidelines of the 19th SAARC Summit.

Published on December 25, 2015

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