Surprise from Modi: Stopover in Lahore, a meeting with Sharif

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Old 25-Dec-2015
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Surprise from Modi: Stopover in Lahore, a meeting with Sharif

Prime Minister Narendra Modi sprang a surprise on Friday by announcing he would meet his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Lahore on his way back from a brief visit to Afghanistan.

This will be the third meeting between the two prime ministers since their talks on the margins of the SCO Summit in the Russian city of Ufa in July, marking an uptick in high-level bilateral contacts following a prolonged freeze in ties.

Modi, who flew into Kabul on Friday morning for a previously unannounced visit to inaugurate Afghanistan’s new parliament built by India, made public his plans to meet 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 tweeted.

“Spoke to PM Nawaz Sharif & wished him on his birthday,” he said in another tweet.
Television news channels were quick to dub the development “birthday diplomacy”. Besides being Sharif’s birthday, December 25 is the birth anniversary of Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Sources in Islamabad said Modi was expected to land in Lahore in the afternoon and depart for New Delhi later in the day. Modi is expected to meet Sharif at the Pakistani leader’s sprawling farmhouse at Raiwind, located about 15 km from the airport.

Security was stepped up in Lahore on Friday morning and additional police forces and paramilitary Pakistan Rangers personnel were deployed across the city.

Sources in Lahore further said Modi could participate in events linked to the marriage of Sharif’s granddaughter Meherun Nisa. The celebrations began on Tuesday.

Following talks between Modi and Sharif on the margins of the SCO Summit in the Russian city of Ufa in July, the two sides announced their national security advisers would meet to discuss terrorism-related issues. The process broke down after Islamabad insisted on the inclusion of the Kashmir issue in the agenda for talks.

A brief meeting between Modi and Sharif on the sidelines of the climate change summit in Paris on November 30 and a secret meeting between the NSAs in Bangkok on December 6 helped put bilateral engagements back on track. Following this, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj visited Islamabad to attend the Heart of Asia Summit on Afghanistan and held talks with her counterpart Sartaj Aziz during December 9-10.

The two sides also announced that they would begin a new talks process known as the “comprehensive dialogue” to address all outstanding issues, including Kashmir.

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