Prime Minister Modi took the world by surprise by his unscheduled stopover at Lahore - to wish PM Nawaz Sharif on his birthday - on his return from the Russian visit, followed by the inauguration of the new Afghan Parliament building in Kabul.
The leader of a country rarely makes such detours or visits except on exceptional circumstances because, normally, leaders meet only against the backdrop of a set agenda.
It definitely seems to have taken the opposition by surprise. Going by their responses, only a couple though, the churlishness is palpable as reflected below,
(a) The Congress. No amount of meetings between the two countries is going to alter the
status quo and the animosity.
Note. The very same party had said that, "Dialogue in any form must be on between the two
countries to prevent misunderstanding so as to prevent unwanted situations from arising.
(b) The Shiv Sena. Modi resorts to such gimmicks to find a place in the social media!
Statesmanship of leaders can bring about extraordinary results and it definitely requires guts to stray from the oft beaten path. But what prompted our Prime Minister to pull this masterstroke off? We'd heard about the following in recent days:-
(a) Secret dialogue between key officials in Singapore.
(b) The visit of our Foreign Minister to Pakistan and
(c) And our PM's informal huddle with his Pakistani counterpart at the Paris Climate Meet.
Being the cynic that I am, I've the following doubts:-
(a) The military continues to call the shots out there and the recent past has shown that Nawaz
Sharif has been systematically weakened. Will he, therefore, be able to push for peace
acceptable to us?
(b) Against that backdrop would initiatives on our part really make a change of heart?
In 1999, the then PM of India, Atal Behari Vajpayee, had gone on his famous bus ride to Lahore to forge a good relationship between the two countries and there was much bonhomie between him and Nawaz Sharif, who was paradoxically, the then PM of Pakistan. Musharraf, the then Army Chief, had pompously said that he'd deliberately stayed away from the proceedings because he didn't want to salute our Prime Minister!
His misadventure was dealt with a firm hand and by the spirited defences of youngsters like Captains Vikram Batra, Saurabh Kalia and many, many others whose acts of valour have since become folklore, a crushing defeat was handed over to them at Kargil. A few years later after having usurped power, he'd come all the way to Agra for a bilateral summit and saluted the same Prime Minister for his statesmanship and largeness of heart!
In the present circumstances, has the Pakistani military establishment realised that rather than clinging on to their anti-India posture, they need to go ahead with a development agenda for their country to prosper and let the civilian government rule, for a change?
If that be so, the Modi visit would definitely be a precursor of better things to follow!