Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise visit to Pakistan on Friday to meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
It was the first time an Indian premier had stepped foot on Pakistani soil in more than 10 years and was seen by analysts as a step towards normalising ties between the two neighbours which have fought three wars.
State TV footage showed an Indian Air Force jumbo jet land in the late afternoon at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport where Nawaz — who celebrated his birthday the same day — had flown in by helicopter moments earlier.
PM Nawaz, flanked by the cabinet ministers, received Modi on the tarmac where military officers lined up along a red carpet.
Both leaders wore their national dresses and made their way to Sharif’s helicopter, which flew them to the prime minister’s residence in Raiwind.
Modi had earlier made the surprise announcement to visit Nawaz on Twitter as he wound up his visit to Afghanistan with an address to the Afghan parliament.
“Looking forward to meeting PM Nawaz Sharif in Lahore today afternoon, where I will drop by on my way back to Delhi,” he said.
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 Nawaz have had a stop-start diplomatic relationship since the Indian premier’s surprise invitation to Nawaz to his inauguration last May.
A brief meeting between PM Nawaz and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the UN climate change summit in Paris on November 30, followed by talks between the two countries’ national security advisers in Bangkok, appeared to have broken the ice.
Imtiaz Gul, head of the Islamabad-based Center for Research and Security Studies, said: “It’s an extremely welcome move and it shows that the baby steps promised at the Paris summit between the two Prime Ministers have transformed into a much bigger step, which holds big promise for both countries.”
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.
In Pakistan, opposition senator Sherry Rehman said that while most Pakistanis backed better ties, parliament had not been consulted and it was unclear what concessions Islamabad was ready to make.
“It’s a small step because we don’t know what kind of sustainable progress is based around it. We don’t know if this is more than a grand gesture,” she told AFP.
The Indian prime minister made the surprise announcement as he wound up his visit to Afghanistan with an address to the Afghan parliament.
Modi arranged surprise Pakistan visit just hours before, says foreign secretary
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arranged his landmark visit to Pakistan, the first by an Indian leader in a decade, at the last minute on Friday, a Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry said.
Modi phoned Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif while on a visit to neighbouring Afghanistan and asked if he could make a stop in Pakistan on his way home, the foreign secretary told media after Modi departed.
“And the PM said to him, ‘Please come, you are our guest, please come and have tea with me’,” he said.
Modi touched by Nawaz’s hospitality
Hour after he made a surprise visit to Lahore, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted saying he was touched by the PM Nawaz’s hospitality.
Modi said that he was touched by Nawaz humble attitude as the latter welcomed him at the airport upon his arrival and also went to see him off when he was departing for India.
Speaking about the meeting, the Indian premier further said that Nawaz held affection for the former Indian PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
“He (Nawaz) recalled their interactions and asked me to convey his regards to Atal ji,” Modi tweeted.
Expressing his delight, Modi said that PM Nawaz’s birthday and his granddaughter marriage added more charm to the brief visit he paid at the prime minister’s residence.
Modi reaches airport to leave for India
Modi departs from Raiwind for Lahore airport
Modi gifts Indian dress to PM Nawaz’s granddaughter
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has gifted an Indian dress to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s granddaughter whose marriage ceremony is scheduled for later today, Express News reported.
Further, Modi also reportedly gifted Indian shawls to the prime minister’s wife Kulsoom Nawaz.
Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq welcomes Modi’s visit
Modi arrives at PM Nawaz’s Raiwind residence
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart arrived at the former’s residence, Jati Umra, at Raiwind in Lahore, Express News reported.
Bilawal Bhutto welcomes Modi
Modi heads to PM’s Raiwind residence
Modi and his 120-men entourage head to Jati Umra on a private helicopter, where the Indian premier is expected to meet PM Nawaz’s mother.
“Modi will also attend an event for Nawaz’s granddaughter’s wedding,” a source said.
Premier Nawaz hugs Modi
PM Nawaz receives Modi on the tarmac where military officials have been lined up along a red carpet. PM Nawaz hugged Modi upon his arrival. A spokesperson at the premier’s office told Reuters the two leaders will discuss a range of bilateral issues, including the issue of Kashmir.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi lands at Lahore airport
Modi lands in Lahore where he will be met by PM Nawaz and other officials.
State TV footage showed the Indian Air Force jumbo jet land at the Allama Iqbal International Airport where Sharif had flown in by helicopter moments earlier.
A view of the flight path taken by Narendra Modi’s plane
Indian high commissioner arrives in Lahore
Indian High Commissioner TCA Raghavan arrives at Lahore airport ahead of Modi’s arrival.
Sajjan Jindal also in Lahore to ‘greet PM Nawaz on birthday’
Indian steel magnate Sajjan Jindal, the brother of former Congress MP Naveen Jindal, who reportedly arranged the secret meeting between Nawaz and Modi in Katmandu is also in Pakistan. “In Lahore to greet PM Nawaz Sharif on his birthday,” Jindal tweeted.
Renowned TV journalist Barkha Dutt in her debut book This Unquiet Land — Stories from India’s Fault Lines described Jindal as an informal messenger serving as a “covert bridge” between the two leaders.
Unknown to the media and certainly the public, both Modi and Sharif had found someone to “keep them connected even when things got difficult”, Dutt wrote in her book regarding Jindal.
Nawaz reaches Lahore airport to receive Modi
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reached the Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore to receive his Indian counterpart, Express News reported.
According to sources, Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif will assist PM Nawaz while Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar will assist PM Modi during the meeting, which will discuss matters of mutual interest.
Details of Nawaz, Modi meeting being worked out: FO
“I can confirm that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is arriving in Lahore,” Foreign Office spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah told state television. “The details of the meeting are being worked out,” he added.
India’s Congress terms Modi’s Lahore visit ‘irresponsible’
India’s opposition Congress Party called Modi’s visit irresponsible and said that nothing had changed to warrant warming of ties between the nuclear-armed rivals that only in August cancelled scheduled high-level talks after ceasefire violations across the border.
“If the decision is not preposterous then it is utterly ridiculous,” Congress leader Manish Tewari said.
One should have such relations with the neighbours: Sushma Swaraj
Further, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj also confirmed the meeting between the two leaders. “That’s like a statesman,” Swaraj said on Twitter. “One should have such relations with the neighbours,” she added.
However, Modi’s visit to Lahore is being censured by opposition political parties back in New Delhi. “Our foreign policy is going from the sublime to the ridiculous. You can’t do such things in such a cavalier manner…this is going to blow up in the PMs face,” India’s NDTV quoted former Congress union minister Manish Tewari as saying.
PM House confirms Modi’s visit
The Prime Minister House also confirmed the Indian premier’s surprise visit. The prime minister will personally receive his Indian counterpart at the Allama Iqbal International Airport, where Modi’s plane will land at 2:45 pm, the PM House spokesperson added.
Modi announces surprise visit to Pakistan
“Looking forward to meeting PM Nawaz Sharif in Lahore today afternoon, where I will drop by on my way back to Delhi,” the Indian premier said on Twitter.
Modi also wished PM Nawaz on his birthday. “Spoke to PM Nawaz Sharif & wished him on his birthday,” the Indian prime minister said in another Twitter message.
The last meeting between Modi and Nawaz took place in November on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, where the two premiers exchanged pleasantries and held a brief meeting.
A week later, Swaraj arrived in Islamabad to take part in the fifth ‘Heart of Asia ─ Istanbul process’ ministerial conference.
The Indian foreign minister held meetings with PM Nawaz and his Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz. It was later announced that both the countries decided to restart a composite dialogue.
Earlier in July, PM Nawaz and Modi held a meeting in Ufa, Russia during which matters of mutual interest were discussed.
During the meeting, Nawaz reiterated his invitation to the Indian prime minsiter to visit South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) Summit in Pakistan in 2016 which Modi gladly accepted.
India and Pakistan have been arch-rivals since gaining independence from Britain in 1947 and have fought three wars against each other.
Diplomacy between the two nuclear-armed countries worsened significantly in 2014 following the election of Hindu nationalist Modi as prime minister in India, with shelling across their border in Kashmir claiming dozens of lives.
However, hopes have rekindled after recent breakthrough developments in the shape of meetings between the top political leadership of the two countries and their subsequent pledge to resume a comprehensive dialogue process, increase trade and boost ties between Islamabad and New Delhi.
It is the first time in over a decade that an Indian premier is visiting Pakistan. Former Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee visited Islamabad in January 2004 to attend the Saarc summit in the federal capital.
Modi inaugurates parliament building in Kabul
Earlier, opening the parliament building in Kabul, Modi pledged India’s support for the Afghan government and urged regional powers including Pakistan to work together to foster peace.
The building is the latest symbol of a longstanding diplomatic effort by New Delhi to cultivate its links to Afghanistan.
As well as the parliament building, India is also supplying three Russian-made Mi-35 helicopters to Afghanistan’s small air force, adding badly needed capacity to provide close air support to its hard-pressed security forces.
Without referring directly to Pakistan, India’s traditional rival in the region, Modi said that some had seen “sinister designs in our presence” in Afghanistan.
“India is here to contribute, not to compete; to lay the foundation of future, not light the flame of conflict,” he told lawmakers in Kabul, adding that Afghanistan could never “serve the designs of others”.
Modi said that regional support would be vital to bring peace and control terrorism. “We know that Afghanistan’s success will require the cooperation and support of each of its neighbours,” he said. “And all of us in the region – India, Pakistan, Iran and others – must unite in trust and cooperation behind the common purpose and in recognition of our common destiny.”