Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in Pakistan on a surprise Christmas Day visit, which also coincides with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's birthday. Modi's trip is the first by an Indian premier in more than a decade and follows renewed peace moves that were preceded by a bitter war of words.
Modi landed at the Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore, where he was received by his Pakistani counterpart. Modi's unannounced trip – which is bound to have serious geopolitical repercussions – was revealed by the prime minister himself after he tweeted about it.
Modi wrote: "Looking forward to meeting PM Nawaz Sharif in Lahore today afternoon, where I will drop by on my way back to Delhi." In an earlier message, he wrote that he spoke to Sharif to convey his birthday wishes.
The Indian premier, who wrapped up a brief visit to Afghanistan and a two-day visit to Russia, will spend two hours in Lahore before leaving for New Delhi. Security has been heightened in Lahore, Pakistan's second largest metropolitan area. Modi is also expected to convey his best wishes for the marriage of Sharif's granddaughter on 26 December.
India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who herself recently visited Pakistan for breakthrough talks, hailed Modi's initiative and called the trip statesman-like. However, domestically, opposition leaders have heaped scorn on Modi.
Tensions between the two nuclear-armed rivals have been high in recent years. The diplomatic deadlock was broken when Modi and Sharif held "pull aside" talks at the UN climate change summit in Paris recently. The two countries have fought three wars since their independence from Britain in 1947; two of those were over the Kashmir territorial dispute.