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Modi arranged surprise visit at last minute over phone: Pak official

india Updated: Dec 25, 2015 22:18 IST
Narendra Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif at the latter’s residence at Raiwind in Lahore on Friday. (PTI)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arranged his surprise visit to Pakistan — the first by an Indian leader in a decade, at the last minute on Friday, a Pakistani official said.

Modi phoned Pakistani 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, Pakistani foreign secretary Aizaz Chaudhry 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 made a surprise stopover in Pakistan on Friday to meet Sharif, raising hopes that stop-and-start negotiations between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

“So, you have finally come,” Sharif told Modi, according to a Pakistani foreign ministry official who was at the meeting. Sharif hugged Modi after he landed at the airport and the two left by helicopter for Sharif’s nearby family estate.

“Yes, absolutely. I am here,” Modi replied, according to the official.

Modi and Sharif talked for about 90 minutes and shared an early-evening meal before the Indian leader flew back home.

Read: PM Modi, Sharif discuss India-Pakistan ties, display camaraderie

“Among the decisions taken was that ties between the two countries would be strengthened and also people-to-people contact would be strengthened so that the atmosphere can be created in which the peace process can move forward,” Chaudhry said.

The Pakistan government’s foreign affairs ministry tweeted: “The two Prime Ministers agreed to continue and enhance contacts and work together to establish good neighborly relations.”

Soon after his arrival in Delhi later at night, Modi posted on Twitter: “Am personally touched by Nawaz Sharif Sahab ‘s gesture of welcoming me at Lahore airport and coming to the airport when I left.”

After months of a freeze, India and Pakistan resumed high-level contacts with a brief conversation between Sharif and Modi at climate change talks in Paris late last month, part of efforts to restart a peace dialogue plagued by militant attacks and long-standing distrust.

A close aide to Modi said the visit was a spontaneous decision by the PM and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, and that it should not be seen as a sudden shift in India’s position.

“But yes, it’s a clear signal that active engagement can be done at a quick pace,” the aide said, declining to be identified.

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