Indian PM Modi accepts invitation to visit Pakistan

NEW DELHI: India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi has accepted an invitation by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to visit Pakistan, Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh told reporters in New Delhi on Tuesday.

“All SAARC leaders invited the [Indian] PM to visit. He accepted. The dates have to be worked out,” Indian media quoted Singh as saying.

Sharif is in India on a two-day visit to attend the inauguration ceremony of India’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi, with whom he had a “warm and cordial” bilateral meeting, he said.

“We agreed that our meeting in New Delhi should be a historic opportunity for both our countries,” he told reporters.

“This provides us the opportunity of meeting the hopes and aspirations of our peoples that we will succeed in turning a new page in our relations.”

He said that both men shared a common goal of economic development which could not be achieved without “peace and stability in the region.”

Sharif said that top diplomats from both countries would meet soon to advance peace talks that have moved fitfully because of political tensions between the neighbours.

“We also agreed that the two foreign secretaries would be meeting soon to review and carry forward our bilateral agenda in the spirit of our meeting today.”

India said earlier that Modi had conveyed during the meeting his concerns about militants allegedly using Pakistani soil to carry out acts of terrorism in India. Sharif told reporters that accusations and counter-accusations did not help matters.

The meeting, which was scheduled for 35 minutes but stretched on for 50 minutes, concluded with hopes that it would restart the stalled peace process.

Modi conveys militancy concerns

Earlier, the Indian foreign secretary said in a press statement that Modi also “underlined our concerns related to terrorism.”

“We want peaceful and friendly relations with Pakistan, however for such relations to proceed, it is important that terror and violence is brought to an end,” Singh said.

She added that Modi conveyed that Islamabad needed to “abide by its commitment to prevent its territory and territory it controls being used to stage terror attacks on India”.

According to the Indian foreign secretary, Modi also underlined his desire to improve commercial ties between the countries, a focus of efforts under the previous government.

“There was discussion on trade and we noted that we were fully ready to fully normalise trade and economic relations. Both prime ministers expressed their interest in having this done as early as possible,” Singh said.

Modi began his first day in office by meeting all the seven leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Newly inducted Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj remained with him during his meetings.

Earlier, Sharif also separately met with the former Indian prime minister Attal Bihari Vajpayee.

He will be meeting the Indian president later in the day before he heads back home.