Modi makes a surprise stop-over in Pakistan
Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a surprise "goodwill" visit to the neighbouring Pakistan. This is the 1st such trip in almost 10 years, viewed as a measure towards building ties between the nuclear-armed neighbours. Vikas Swarup, the spokesperson for External Affairs Ministry tweeted saying "Breakfast in Kabul, tea in Lahore & dinner in Delhi!". Modi was received by PM Sharif himself at the airport.
The visit was scheduled over a brief phone call (Modi had called to greet Sharif on his birthday) and it was so sudden that the Foreign Minister Swaraj was notified by the PM himself. Due to the last minute plans, from the Pakistan side, only Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary could accompany Sharif.
On his surprise visit on 25 December, Modi visited Sharif's ancestral residence in Raiwind town. He even gave his blessings to Nawaz Sharif's grand-daughter at the occasion of her wedding and met the Pakistani PM's mother. Modi tweeted about the evening saying: "Spent a warm evening with Sharif family at their family home. Nawaz Sahab's birthday & granddaughter's marriage made it a double celebration".
Nawaz Sharif and former Indian PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee share their birthday (25 December). In a tweet Modi said that Nawaz Sharif spoke affectionately of Vajpayee and "recalled their interactions & asked me to convey his regards to Atal ji".
In the short 90 minutes trip, the two leaders agreed to schedule the assemblage of Foreign Secretaries around January 15-16 in Islamabad. The officials present said the central idea was to signal that every meeting doesn't need to become a 'summit'. Pakistani Foreign Ministry said: "The two leaders decided to take forward the dialogue process," and open ways for peace and a better atmosphere.
PDP and National Conference welcomed Modi's surprise visit, calling "Sunday's diplomatic breakthrough with Pakistan as positive for the relationship between the two countries." CM Mufti Mohammad Sayeed hoped that this would provide the much-needed thrust for the two countries to solve their issues peacefully. Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani saw this as a 'positive step', hoping it'd amount to something significant in future.
While the Leftist parties CPM and CPI lauded Modi's surprise stopover in Lahore saying it was an example how diplomacy should move beyond "photo-ops and personal bonhomie". However, the Shiv Sena was unimpressed and asked, "if the meeting would lead to... Dawood Ibrahim being handed over to India." AAP questioning the sudden decision added that "friendship and betrayal cannot go hand in hand".
In 2007 PM Manmohan Singh had remarked at an event that he hoped that someday India- Pakistan relations "would improve to such an extent that it would be possible to have breakfast in Amritsar, lunch in Lahore and dinner in Kabul." 9 years after, Modi lived his predecessors' dream!
Questioning the purpose behind Modi's visit, Congress rebuffed claims of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj that the Prime Minister's move was 'statesman-like' and accused it of being "pre-arranged". They further called this trip 'frivolous' and was not for intended to promote India's national interest. Congress said that diplomacy "must have seriousness and gravitas" and the PM cannot follow his whims when dealing with Pakistan.