Surprise visit signals possible thawing of India-Pakistan relations

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Dec 28, 2015 (LBO) – A surprise visit on Christmas Day between the leaders of India and Pakistan could be a sign of thawing relations between the two nuclear-armed countries.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to meet his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif is the first visit to Pakistan by an Indian prime minister in almost 12 years.

The leaders agreed that their Foreign Secretaries would meet in mid-January to restart talks, the Xinhua news agency reported quoting unidentified sources.

“It was decided that dialogue will be increased,” Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry said. “People-to-people contact needs to increase,” he said.

The issue of Kashmir as well as counter-terrorism and economic cooperation is likely to be on the agenda, with tense relations since the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks which India said was orchestrated in Pakistan, and recent terror attacks in Paris.

Behind the scenes, Pakistan’s military had paved the way for reviving stalled dialogue with India, The Hindu reported.

“This round is different because there is backing from the top where it matters. The Army Chief is himself on board,” a diplomat said, adding the Pakistan military remains wary of a civilian government giving too much away.

Army Chief Gen. Raheel Sharif is said to be close to the new National Security Adviser, recently retired General Naseer Khan Janjua, who replaced Sartaj Aziz, an ally of the Prime Minister, in October.

In the run up to this visit, Modi and Sharif shook hands at a conference in the Russian city of Ufa in July and had a brief meeting in Paris at the start of this month.