LAHORE (Pakistan) – Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise stopover in Lahore on Friday for a brief meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in a surprise visit – the first visit to Pakistan by an Indian premier in more than 10 years.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif greeted him at an airport in Lahore during his short layover in the city while en route to New Delhi from Afghanistan. Sharif was accompanied by his brother Shahbaz Sharif, Punjab province’s chief minister.
Modi was accorded a red carpet welcome as PM’s special IAF Boeing 737 plane made a smooth touchdown at 4.20PST. He then took a chopper to proceed to Sharif’s Raiwind palatial residence in the outskirts of Lahore.
Sharif’s sprawling residence had been colorfully decorated for his granddaughter’s wedding reception when Modi arrived along with the Pakistani prime minister. The two leaders were later shown sitting together in a room looking happy and relaxed.
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.
The last Indian prime minister to visit Pakistan was Atal Bihari Vajpayee, when he attended a South Asian summit in 2004 and held talks with Ex-President Pervez Musharraf.
Amanullah Memen, a professor of international relations at Preston University in Islamabad said, “I think it is going to play a significant role in improving ties between the two South Asian archrivals.”
Tarun Vijay, a spokesman for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party, praised Modi’s visit as a sign of statesmanship. “This is the best Christmas gift to the mankind which believes in peace and amity.
Congress leader Manish Tewari called it an “adventure” by the Indian prime minister.
The visit came more than two weeks after Modi and Sharif had an unscheduled meeting at climate change talks in Paris. The relations between India and Pakistan have witnessed some positive developments after chill for several months. The two countries recently decided to launch a comprehensive dialogue after Modi-Sharif meet in Paris.