India's Modi on surprise Pakistan visit to meet PM

2015-12-25 12:49
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Prakash Singh, AFP)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Prakash Singh, AFP)

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New Delhi - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he would meet his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Lahore on Friday in what would be the first visit to Pakistan by an Indian premier in more than 10 years.

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

The Indian prime minister made the surprise announcement as he wound up his visit to Afghanistan with an address to the Afghan parliament.

"That's like a statesman," Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj commented on Twitter. "One should have such relations with the neighbours," she added.

Confirming the meeting, Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Qazi Khalilullah said: "The details of the meeting are being worked out."

The last visit to Pakistan by an Indian prime minister was in 2004 by then leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who is credited with bringing about a thaw in relations with Islamabad.

Modi and Sharif have had a stop-start diplomatic relationship since the Indian premier's surprise invite to Sharif for his inauguration last May.

Both countries' governments have frequently disputed each other's claims on contentious issues such as terrorism, the divided territory of Kashmir and the pace of the trial in the Mumbai terror attacks case.

Earlier Friday, in his speech to the Afghan parliament, Modi urged closer cooperation between India, Pakistan and other neighbours for Afghanistan's progress.

"We know that Afghanistan's success will require the cooperation and support of each of its neighbours. And, all of us in the region - India, Pakistan, Iran and others - must unite ... behind this common purpose," Modi said.

Modi also made a veiled reference to Pakistan on the issue of cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan.

"Afghanistan will succeed only when terrorism no longer flows across the border; when nurseries and sanctuaries of terrorism are shut; and, their patrons are no longer in business," Modi said.

India's main opposition party, Congress, was quick to criticise Modi's "irresponsible" decision.

"Our foreign policy is going from the sublime to the ridiculous," former union minister and Congress spokesman Manish Tewari told India's NDTV news channel.

"India-Pakistan diplomacy can't be done irresponsibly. We want to ask PM what has changed in the last few months that he went straight to Lahore from Kabul," Tewari said.

"This is going to blow up in the PM's face," he added.

Earlier this December, the national security advisers of both countries met in Bangkok. The development surprised many and it was announced with a joint press release only after the meeting was over.

India's foreign ministry at the time said the advisers discussed "peace and security, terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir, and other issues, including tranquility along the LoC (line of control)," the de facto border in Kashmir.

Read more on:    narendra modi  |  nawaz sharif  |  india  |  pakistan

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