ISLAMABAD - Without going into the controversy whether it was a planned or surprise visit or who is the driving force behind this brief interaction, the meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi will definitely augur well for the foreign secretaries’ level talks scheduled in the middle of next month in Islamabad.

The meeting between the two was widely welcomed by the political leadership in both India and Pakistan while the United States, China and other countries have also termed it a positive development which would leave a far-reaching impact on the regional peace.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said: “Pakistan and India are important countries in South Asia. The improvement of Pakistan-India relationship is significant to regional peace, stability and development.”

The spokesperson further said as the common neighbour and friend of Pakistan and India, China is happy to see and will, as always, support Pakistan and India enhance mutual trust and achieve common development through continuous dialogue.

US State Department said Modi's overture towards Pakistan would "benefit the entire region". "We welcome the December 25 talks between PM Modi and PM Sharif in Lahore. As we have long said, improved relations among neighbours will benefit the entire region," spokesperson John Kirby said in a statement.

Both local and western media gave a wide coverage to the meeting between the two and termed it a good opportunity to bring durable peace to the region.

Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that as it was unplanned brief stopover of Indian Premier Modi in Lahore on his way back to New Delhi, so he as well as Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi and National Security Adviser Lt Gen (r) Nasir Khan Janjua could not join Premier Sharif in the meeting at his Jati Umra residence. “However, Secretary Foreign Affairs Aizaz Chaudhry, who is in Lahore in connection with Christmas holidays as well as Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif are in attendance of the meeting with Indian Premier,” he quickly added.

Officially, the news of the stopover was announced by Modi on Twitter: “Looking forward to meeting PM Nawaz Sharif in Lahore today afternoon, where I will drop by on my way back to Delhi.”

Within minutes, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted: “That’s like a statesman. Padosi se aise hi rishte hone chahiyen (One should have such relations with neighbours).”

The mainstream political parties, including Pakistan People’s Party, Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf, Awami National Party, Qaumi Watan Party and other welcomed the Indian Premier’s move and hoped that it would go well in normalising the relations between the two countries.

After Atal Behari Vajpayee, it’s the first visit of any Indian Prime Minister to Lahore in over a decade and political analysts are according great importance with the hope that this would definitely have positive reflection on the negotiations between the two sides formally starting from next month.

Although the talks between the two premiers were completely informal with no official agenda, even this could not undermine its significance as both of them have decided for the meeting of foreign secretaries of the two countries in the middle of January to formalise the modalities of comprehensive dialogue, the nomenclature given to the previous composite dialogue by Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Sawraj during his visit to Islamabad early this month to attend Heart of Asia Conference.

After seeing off Indian delegation at the Lahore Airport Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry said that the two premiers met in cordial atmosphere and it was agreed upon in the meeting that people-to-people contact should be enhanced and other confidence building measures should be taken to improve the relations between the two sides.

Both the premiers further agreed that they would not let the dialogue process derail by any subversive activity on either side like it had happened after Mumbai attacks and would work out mechanism to sort out such a thing.

Giving details of how the meeting between the two fixed, a source in PML-N informed that it was Narendra Modi who rang up Nawaz Sharif from Kabul in the morning to wish him on his 66th birthday and then said he was over-flying Pakistan. Sharif said he was in Lahore in connection with the marriage ceremony of his granddaughter. Modi expressed his desire to greet him in person and premier Sharif not wasted a second to extend him invitation for a brief stopover on his way back.

It was so sudden that the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad TCA Raghavan has to take a chartered plane to join Modi in Raiwind residence of Premier Sharif.

Some insiders in government informed that Indian diplomat sought permission from Foreign Office Islamabad for moving to Lahore on telephone and all the set procedure of travel outside Islamabad was set aside in emergency.

Modi also met Sharif’s family and “blessed” his grand-daughter Mehrunnisa, whose wedding is taking place at Sharif’s residence. Sharif later came to the airport to see Modi off.

This was the second meeting between the two prime ministers in less than a month, after their interaction on the sidelines of the climate change talks in Paris on November 30.