LAHORE - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday gave a big surprise to the world through a stopover in Lahore way back to Delhi after completing his Afghanistan visit.

Though unscheduled and sudden, the visit of Indian prime minister has attracted huge importance at the international level for bringing peace and sorting out issues between the two nuclear states through negotiations.

Dubbed as ‘birthday diplomacy’ by media, the Indian premier reached here in the afternoon more like a family friend of the Sharifs than a state guest.

Mr Modi phoned Nawaz Sharif from Kabul at 11:30am to greet him on his birthday which coincides with that of Qaudi-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jiannah, the founding father of the nation. The Indian PM desired to see his Pakistani counterpart who promptly invited him in Lahore where preparations for the wedding of his granddaughter Mehar-un-Nisa, due on Saturday, were underway. Friday was rasm-e-hina.

Amid tight security and suspension of routine flights at Lahore Airport, Modi landed with an entourage of 120 members to spring the second big surprise after sudden meeting with Nawaz Sharif in Paris on the sidelines of UN-sponsored Climate Change conference on November 30.

About 90-minute meeting at the Paris hotel, marked a thaw in ties between the two countries which were soured due to month longs border violations and terror charges. It was followed by the visit of the Indian External Minister Sushma Swaraj to Islamabad to attend the Heart of Asia Conference on December 10.

In a red-carpet welcome, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry received Mr Modi who, attired in maroon-colour waistcoat over Indian Kurta Payjama, alighted Indian Air Force plane with a big smile on face.

Nawaz Sharif and Nerendra Modi clasped their hands and hugged warmly and then both flew to Jatti Umra in a helicopter showing a rare scene of warmth.

PM Modi’s visit, first by an Indian premier in 12 years, lasted on the Pakistani soil for about two-and half hours which he spent at Jatti Umra farmhouse of the Sharifs. Here Mr Modi met mother of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the presence of his spouse Begum Kalsum Nawaz, daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif, sons Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz. Reportedly, Modi touched feet of Nawaz Sharif’s mother in respect and in turn received good wishes. Modi gifted Indian dresses to bride Mahar-un-Nisa and wished her happy marital life.

Indian PM reportedly held discussion on bilateral relations of the two states with PM Nawaz Sharif who was joined by CM Shahbaz Sharif, Minister Ishaq Dar and MNA Hamza Shahbaz Sharif.

The Office of the Foreign Minister is with the Prime Minister while PM aide on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, Special Assistant Tariq Fatemi and National Security Adviser Nasir Khan Janjua, according to the foreign office, could not join the meeting due to its urgent nature.

The immediate net effect of the interaction between the two sides is resumption of secretary level talks on January 15 next year. Talks will be held in Islamabad.

The process of the composite dialogue between the two states had been quite rocky. Last time the process was scheduled to resume on August 25 last year but India backed down resenting meeting of Pakistan High Commissioner to India with Kashmiri Hurriyat leader Sabir Shah.

The communiqué issued after Jatti Umra parley said that both the sides have expressed strong desire for peace in the region for which they agreed to continue talks on the bilateral issues and make joint efforts to mend the differences and improve ties. Both the top leaders shared views that peace is pivotal to prosperity and betterment of the people of the two countries for which stress was laid on promoting people to people contacts and steps to build confidence between the two countries. It said Pakistan, along with China and America, will continue to play the role for advancing peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

The communiqué appreciated Pakistan efforts to counter terrorism and their acknowledgement by the 44 participating states in the recently held Heart of Asia Conference in Islamabad.

The United Nations and the US have welcomed visit of Indian prime minister, terming it a move to bring the two countries closer and make them talk out their issues. “The visit will also go a long way to cast positive effects in the region in addition to improving ties between India and Pakistan,” said the UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon while commenting on the visit. He expressed the hope the process of talks between the two would not only be continued but strengthened.

Talking to media at the airport after departure of the Indian prime minister, Foreign Affairs Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry said that the meeting between the two premiers was a goodwill gesture and held in a cordial atmosphere. He said the meeting also discussed problems in both countries and decided to pursue the steps whereof better understanding develops between them.

Responding to the question whether military leadership was on board on this summit level interaction, Aizaz replied it was a sudden meeting and added, military and civil leadership was on the same page on war against terror and talks with India.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Pakistan Peoples Party and Awami National Party have welcomed the visit of Narendra Modi. PTI Chairman Imran Khan, who had held a meeting with Mr Modi during his recent visit to India where he went to attend a conference, underscored the need for improved ties between India and Pakistan. PPP Senator Aizaz Ahsan described the visit as positive development. Zahid Khan of ANP said wars are no solution to the problems that need to be sorted out through talks and peaceful means.

The right wing party, JI was however resented Modi’s visit. “No friendship with India at the cost of blood of Kashmiris,” said the JI Ameer Maulana Sirajul Haq. He said Modi has admitted his role in breaking Pakistan and now his government was killing innocent Kashmiris and crushing the minorities in India. Kashmir based independence seeking group Hizbul Mujaheed also protested against the visit.

At the intellectual level, the visit of the Indian PM is being interpreted a move to level ground for Indian vote for permanent seat in the UNSC in addition to getting engaged with Pakistan to attain trade benefits. The observers say Pakistan needs to cautiously read Modi’s line of action as he wants to play a leading role in Afghanistan in addition to making Pakistan’s Kashmir stand soft.

They referred to Modi address in the Afghan parliament a day before his visit wherein he alluded to Pakistan as exporting terrorism in Afghanistan and providing sanctuaries to insurgents. They said India is also involved in creating disturbance in Balochishtan and Karachi, and making New Delhi stop its subversive activities should also be the main feature of Pakistan policy along with plebiscite in Kashmir.