US welcomes Modi-Sharif meeting in Pakistan

Washington: The US on Friday welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise visit to Pakistan, saying that improved ties between the two countries will benefit the entire region.

“We welcome the December 25 talks between PM Modi and PM Sharif in Lahore. As we have long said, better relations between neighbours India and Pakistan will benefit the people of the entire region,” a State Department spokesman told PTI.

The State Department was responding to a question on Modi’s sudden visit to Pakistan’s Lahore, where he held talks with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Injecting an element of drama into the see-saw Indo-Pak ties, Modi took the world by surprise by announcing in a tweet from Kabul that he will “drop by” in Lahore to greet Sharif on his 66th birthday today.

“Looking forward to meeting PM Nawaz Sharif in Lahore today afternoon, where I will drop by on my way back to Delhi,” Modi had tweeted. Modi, on his way back home from Kabul, made a sudden stopover in Lahore to meet Sharif and attend a family weeding. Officials from both sides said the trip was organised at the last minute after Modi called Sharif over phone. In a news report, CNN described the meeting as a significant development.

“Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise visit to Pakistan on Friday — a significant sign the icy relationship between the two neighbours is thawing,” it said.

The Washington Post said Modi has “pressed the reset button on the blow-hot-blow-cold relationship” between the two nuclear-armed neighbours, paving the way for official dialogue to resume next month. The Chicago Tribune reported: “The previously unannounced visit is a potential sign of thawing relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.”