Indian PM Modi on surprise Pakistan visit to meet counterpart

Indian PM Narendra Modi makes surprise visit to Pakistan to meet his counterpart Nawaz Sharif

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif look on during a meeting in Lahore on December 25, 2015

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed at Lahore airport on Friday to meet his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, which is the first visit to the country by an Indian premier in more than a decade.

State television showed that Sharif welcomed Modi after he landed at the airport in the eastern city of Lahore. Both leaders made their way to Sharif’s helicopter to fly to his residence just south of the city, state media reported.

A spokesman at the Pakistani prime minister’s office said that two leaders would discuss many bilateral issues, such as the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Lahore on December 25, 2015 (AFP)

The visit came weeks after a conference between the countries’ top diplomats that was held in Islamabad, where the nuclear-armed rivals agreed upon resumption of high-level peace talks.

Modi had earlier announced on his Twitter account that he would visit Sharif as he ended his visit to Afghanistan with an address to the Afghan parliament. Modi was on his way home after a visit to Russia, then stopped off in the Afghan capital Kabul earlier on Friday.

"Looking forward to meeting PM Nawaz Sharif in Lahore today afternoon, where I will drop by on my way back to Delhi," he said.

Scheduled high-level talks between the two were stalled in August after ceasefire violations across the border.

Early in December, both leaders agreed to restart high-level talks with a brief conversation at climate change talks in Paris that would cover peace and security as well as territorial disputes, including Kashmir, a Himalayan region that caused two wars between India and Pakistan since the region gained independence from Britain in 1947.

Therefore, the move appeared to significantly thaw relations that have been tense since the escalation of border violations which erupted in Kashmir in 2014.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif walk through a guard of honour in Lahore on December 25, 2015 (AFP)

The opposition Congress Party described Modi’s visit as irresponsible and said that nothing happened to warrant the warming of ties between the rivals.

"If the decision is not preposterous then it is utterly ridiculous," Congress leader Manish Tewari said.

The last visit to Pakistan by an Indian premier was in 2004 by then leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee, known as bringing about a thaw in relations with Islamabad.

TRTWorld and agencies