Year ends with a 'Birthday diplomacy' with Pakistan - PM Modi makes surprise stopover in Lahore

Year ends with a Birthday diplomacy with Pakistan PM Modi makes surprise stopover in Lahore pardesi news 1459247769

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise visit to Pakistan to meet his counterpart Nawaz Sharif. This was the first time an Indian premier has visited Pakistan in over a decade.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed in Pakistan on Friday (December 25) evening, on the Christmas day for an unscheduled meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif who received him warmly. It is PM Modi`s first visit to Pakistan, and the first trip by an Indian prime minister to the country in 11 years. In fact, Modi aims to recreate the magic of his mentor A B Vajpayee, that too on the latter's birthday. However, unfortunately, that welcome gesture of the erstwhile Indian PM was followed with the treachery of Kargil, with Pakistan also having the same prime minister at the helm in 1999.

PM Modi stopped over in Pakistan before he flew back home from Afghanistan, and the two leaders hugged after Modi landed at the airport in Lahore, then both men flew by helicopter to Sharif’s family estate to attend the latter birthday and also a family marriage ceremony.

At the end of the two-and-a-half hours in Pakistan, the two sides agreed providing ‘Trust’ a big push. The two leaders agreed to increase people-to-people contact and take talks forward.

Though official sources referred that the PM himself took this instantaneous decision, the sequence of events over the past one week, suggest that a window was being explored behind-the-scene for this highly secretive visit.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's surprise stop in Pakistan to meet his counterpart Nawaz Sharif has won him several accolades with the international audience including the US media hailing the significance of his "spontaneous personal diplomacy".

The Washington Post said that with his surprise stop in Pakistan, Modi had "pressed the reset button on the blow-hot-blow-cold relationship between the two nuclear-armed neighbours, paving the way for official dialogue to resume next month".

The New York Times said the tense relations between India and Pakistan "have long worried American policy makers, who fear that proxy wars between the two countries could flare into a real one. But with his flash of spontaneous personal diplomacy on Friday, Mr. Modi appeared to send a strong public message that the ambiguous course he has taken toward Pakistan has shifted to embrace engagement, not confrontation".

The Los Angeles Times said, “With his surprise visit to Pakistan, Modi had breathed new life into a long troubled relationship".

Time magazine called his Friday visit to Pakistan as "The biggest surprise of all"; also noting that Modi "showed a knack for wielding what can be a potent diplomatic weapon-the element of surprise".

Pakistani channels also reported that both the prime ministers were in a casual mood during the ‘chai-pe-charcha’, which included vegetables, kheer and special Kashmiri salt tea. Sharif later saw off PM Modi at the airport.

After the meeting, Pakistani foreign secretary Aizaz Chaudhry informed that the two sides decided to enhance bilateral contacts, collectively work towards the common goal of fighting poverty and to open new avenues for peace and mutual cooperation between the two neighbouring countries. Mr. Chaudhry also said that among the decisions taken by the two men was that ties between the countries would be strengthened and so would people-to-people contact, so an atmosphere can be created in which the peace process can move forward. Both PMs said the objective of the peace process is to aim for prosperity of the people on both sides of the ‘Wagah-divide’.  

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has also welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Pakistan. The Secretary-General expressed hope that the dialogue between the two countries will be maintained and strengthened.

However, the Indian opposition Congress Party was unimpressed with the visit and called Modi’s visit irresponsible and ‘ridiculous’.

Special security arrangements were put in place in and around Lahore. Flights were diverted or grounded, hours before the Indian Air Force plane hit the tarmac of the Alama Iqbal Airport, Lahore. Modi had left for Moscow in Air India One, meant for the PM's foreign travels, he arrived in Kabul and Lahore in an Indian Air Force plane which was escorted by a decoy plane and was also laced with defence systems.

Modi is scheduled to visit Pakistan once again, in September 2016, to attend the SAARC summit.

The visit has raised hopes that the negotiations between the nuclear armed neighbours may finally make progress after 3 wars and over 65 years of hostility.

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Patrick Callahan

Pardesi News Reporter

Pardesi News Reporter

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