BY MEHREEN ZAHRA-MALIK AND KRISHNA N. DAS
ISLAMABAD/NEW DELHI – Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise stopover in Pakistan on Friday to meet his counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, the first time an Indian premier has visited the rival nation in over a decade.
Sharif hugged Modi after he landed at the airport in the eastern city of Lahore before the two boarded a helicopter for Sharif’s nearby estate, state television showed.
A spokesman at the Pakistani prime minister’s office told Reuters the two leaders would discuss a range of bilateral issues, including the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, the most contentious issue dividing the nuclear-armed rivals.
Modi was on his way home after a visit to Russia. He stopped off in the Afghanistan capital Kabul earlier on Friday.
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.
Modi, who inaugurated a new parliament complex built with Indian help in Kabul, spoke to Sharif earlier on Friday to wish him on his 66th birthday.
“Looking forward to meeting PM Nawaz Sharif in Lahore today afternoon, where I will drop by on my way back to Delhi,” Modi tweeted.
The two prime ministers flew to Sharif’s estate in Lahore named Jati Umra, after his family’s ancestral home in a Punjabi village in India, Pakistan state TV reported.
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