Modi stuns all with surprise stopover in Lahore
25-12-2015 17:49

In yet another unannounced stopover, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is landing in Lahore on his way back from Kabul this afternoon. The announcement of his visit was made by a tweet the PM put out towards the end of his stay in Kabul.

“Looking forward to meeting PM Nawaz Sharif in Lahore today afternoon, where I will drop by on my way back to Delhi,” The PM said in a tweet, shortly after he announced that he had spoken to PM Nawaz Sharif to wish him for his birthday.

The PM is in Lahore for about two hours before he leaves for Delhi. He is meeting with PM Sharif and his family at the airport in Lahore, officials said. PM Sharif’s grand-daughter is getting married tomorrow, and Mr. Modi is expected to convey his greetings and possibly take part in the festivities there.

Live updates:

17.07: Modi leaves on a Pakistani chopper to Sharif's residence.

17.06: The Prime Ministers hug each other; it is PM Sharif's birthday and his grand-daughters wedding is this weekend.

17.05: Modi received by Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at Lahore airport.

16.55: Narendra Modi lands in Lahore, first since PM Vajpayee took the bus there since 1999, and first visit by a PM to Pakistan since 2004.

Sources say the PM had decided to visit Kabul a few weeks ago, once it was made clear that the parliament building would be ready in time for the PM’s visit on his way back from Moscow, but that the visit was kept a secret for security reasons.

However, the addition of the Lahore stopover was made only last week, after the resumption of dialogue was announced between the two sides during External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Islamabad. Tweeting about the PM’s visit, Ms. Swaraj wrote: “This is how ties with neighbours should be”.

Earlier this morning, PM Modi landed in Kabul and met with President Ashraf Ghani.

After talks at the presidential palace both leaders went to the Parliament building, inaugurating a block in the name of Former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee, whose birthday, by co-incidence also falls today. “This Parliament Complex is a small tribute to your progress as a nation and a democracy,” Mr. Modi told a specially held session of parliament. Before leaving Kabul he also met with CEO of Afghanistan Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and former President Hamid Karzai.

Mr. Modi’s visit to Pakistan is the first by an Indian PM since 2004, when PM Vajpayee travelled to Islamabad for the SAARC summit. He is also the first PM to visit Lahore since Mr. Vajpayee travelled on board the Lahore bus, to sign the Lahore declaration with PM Sharif. However, ties were derailed after that because of the Kargil war a few months later, which was seen as a betrayal by Pakistan’s then Army chief Pervez Musharraf. When he returned to power in 2013, PM Nawaz Sharif said he wished to pick up ties with India from the Lahore meeting. Years earlier, PM Manmohan Singh had said in a speech in 2007 that he “dreamed” of a day he could have breakfast in Amritsar, Lunch in Lahore and Dinner in Kabul. While he never fulfilled that dream, Mr. Modi seems to have taken a leaf from both his predecessors books on striving for better ties with Pakistan, by effecting that dream in reverse, slightly modified.

Keywords: Narendra ModiLahoreNawaz Sharif