Modi surprises Pakistan rival with ‘birthday greetings’ visit

THE TIMES 26 DECEMBER 2015

Narendra Modi made a surprise visit to Pakistan yesterday, the first by an Indian leader to its historic regional rival in more than a decade, after calling his counterpart to wish him a happy birthday and asking if it was all right if he dropped by.

Mr Modi was on his way back to Delhi from Kabul, where he had made a speech to the Afghan parliament, when he called Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistani prime minister, who was 66 yesterday.

Within hours Mr Modi landed in Lahore after Mr Sharif, who was also due to attend his granddaughter’s wedding, agreed to the flying visit.

In what was dubbed ‘birthday diplomacy’ the two leaders held their unplanned meeting in a “cordial and positive atmosphere,” Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Pakistan’s foreign secretary, said.

Since gaining independence in 1947, India and Pakistan have fought three wars. Tarun Vijay, a spokesman for Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party, said the visit was a sign of statesmanship, peace and amity”.

It was criticised as inappropriate by the main Indian opposition Congress Party.

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