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PM Modi meets Nawaz Sharif in surprise Lahore visit

Modi announced the stopover, which included a meeting with Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, on Twitter. “Looking forward to meeting PM Nawaz Sharif in Lahore today afternoon, where I will drop by on my way back to Delhi,” he said. Earlier, he had called Sharif to wish him a happy birthday.

The visit came as their estranged, nuclear-armed countries are again trying to revive a stalled dialogue. The countries’ foreign secretaries are scheduled to meet in January to develop a road map for comprehensive bilateral talks. Pakistan pulled out of talks with India in August over plans by Pakistani officials, who were visiting New Delhi to meet with Separatist leaders of Kashmir, which both countries claim. 

Modi was received by Sharif with a warm hug at the tarmac of Allama Iqbal International Airport after his stopover here on his way back home after a day-long trip to Afghanistan where he went after concluding a two-day visit to Russia on Thursday.

Modi was accorded a red carpet welcome as PM’s special IAF Boeing 737 plane made a smooth touchdown at 4.20 local time(4.50 IST). He then took a chopper to proceed to Sharif’s Raiwind palatial residence in the outskirts of Lahore. The visit came more than two weeks after Modi and Sharif had an unscheduled meeting at climate change talks in Paris. 

“That’s like a statesman,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted about the surprise visit by Modi. “One should have such relations with the neighbours,” she added.

Pakistani authorities put security on high alert in Lahore especially around the airport area following the announcement of Modi’s brief visit to the eastern city. A heavy contingent of police and Pakistan Rangers have reached the Allama Iqbal International Airport and taken charge of the security. A PM House spokesman here said the Indian premier would stay in Lahore for about two hours.

A PML-N source said that Sharif had invited Modi to attend the marriage of his granddaughter Mehrun Nisa which is taking place on Friday at the Sharif’s Raiwind palatial residence. “I cannot confirm but there are chances that Modi goes to Raiwind and holds meeting with PM Sharif at his residence,” he said.

“Welcome to Pakistan @narendramodi. Constant engagement is the only way to resolve all outstanding issues,” Opposition PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari tweeted.

India and Pakistan broke the logjam in their ties and announced during Swaraj’s recent visit to Islamabad a couple of days after the meet of their NSAs that they have decided to engage in a “comprehensive” dialogue that will include peace and security and J&K. Foreign Secretaries of the two countries are also likely to meet in Islamabad next month.

Separatists in Jammu and Kashmir welcomed Modi’s visit to Lahore, with moderate Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq terming it “a positive move” and hardline faction leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani saying they have no objection to improved relations between India and Pakistan.

Reacting to Modi’s surprise stopover to meet his Pakistani counterpart, who is celebrating his 66th birthday on Friday, the hardline Hurriyat leader said: “We hope that Pakistan will also remain 
steadfast on its stand on Kashmir issue.”
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