Modi makes sur­prise trip to Pak

SYM­BOLIC On way back from Afghanistan, PM stops over at La­hore, meets Nawaz Sharif on his birth­day

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Im­tiaz Ah­mad let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

IS­LAM­ABAD/NEW DELHI: In a diplo­matic coup, Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi made a sur­prise visit to La­hore on Fri­day for a meet­ing with his Pak­istani coun­ter­part Nawaz Sharif that gave fresh im­pe­tus to the re­cently re­set bi­lat­eral di­a­logue. Modi’s un­sched­uled visit marked the first time in 11 years that an In­dian prime min­is­ter trav­elled to Pak­istan and came af­ter a year and a half of a roller-coaster ride in In­dia-Pak­istan ties.

Modi was re­ceived warmly by Sharif when he landed at the Al­lama Iqbal In­ter­na­tional Air­port on Fri­day evening af­ter a brief visit to Kabul where he in­au­gu­rated Afghanistan’s new par­lia­ment build­ing. This was also Modi’s first visit to Pak­istan.

Though it was dubbed an im­promptu stopover by both sides, spec­u­la­tion re­mained rife that the visit was planned a week in ad­vance but kept se­cret, a the­ory lent cre­dence by the fact that Pak­istan’s en­voy to In­dia Ab­dul Ba­sit had been in Pak­istan for the past two days. “Those who prac­tise the art of diplo­macy know some sur­prises are not really that,” a source said.

In­dian steel mag­nate Sa­j­jan Jin­dal, be­lieved to have played a role in ar­rang­ing a meet­ing be­tween Modi and Sharif on the side­lines of a Saarc sum­mit in Kathmandu last year, too was in La­hore on Fri­day.

An­other source said plan­ning was done to make the visit grand in sym­bolic terms as Fri­day was the birth­day of both Sharif and for­mer PM Atal Be­hari Va­j­payee. Adding to the sym­bol­ism, the two

lead­ers trav­elled the 15 km be­tween La­hore air­port and Sharif ’s farm­house in a he­li­copter.

“So, you have fi­nally come,” Sharif told Modi, ac­cord­ing to a Pak­istani for­eign min­istry of­fi­cial who was at the meet­ing. “Yes, ab­so­lutely. I am here,” Modi replied, ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial.

CON­TIN­UED ON P6

AFP/PIB

PM Naren­dra Modi with his Pak­istani coun­ter­part Nawaz Sharif (left) in La­hore on Fri­day.

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