How brave is Modi

India's premier modes: Surprising visit to the archenemy

There was only one topic for the public in India and Pakistan this Friday: India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made a surprise visit to Pakistan and after more than eleven years is ensuring a meeting of regional arch-rivals at the highest level. Announced by Modi himself on Twitter, the meeting was all about relaxation and the rapprochement that both countries have been pursuing for around three months.

Modi arrived in Lahore that afternoon and was hugged by his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, when he was met at the city's airport. State television pictures captured the historical scene. Then the two prime ministers went to the host's house, where the two and a half hour conversation between them, according to a spokesman, was said to have taken place in a "cordial" atmosphere. Topics were therefore a number of bilateral matters, including the dispute over the Kashmir region. Both had agreed to expand contacts and to work harder on good neighborly relations.

Most of the reactions to the visit to Pakistan and India have been positive. India's Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj praised via Twitter: "That's the way it is statesmanlike!" Indian analysts called the gesture "visionary and courageous". Pakistani security analyst Talat Massoud said the visit shows India's position on Pakistan is changing. That is a good sign for peace.

For some time now, India and Pakistan have been on a rapprochement. It all started with a handshake between Modis and Sharif at the Paris climate conference at the end of November. Then security advisors from both countries met in Bangkok - a meeting that had previously been canceled at least twice. For the first time in three years, an Indian foreign minister, Swaraj, traveled to Islamabad on December 10th. There, India and Pakistan agreed to resume the peace talks, which had been suspended after the series of terrorists in Mumbai.

The policies of both countries, however, remain ambiguous. During a speech shortly before in Kabul, Modi did not directly mention Pakistan - but some remarks can be understood as a swipe at the archenemy who is accused of promoting terrorism in Afghanistan. He said that Afghanistan would be better off as soon as the "nurseries of terrorism" were closed and their supporters stopped funding it.

Combat helicopter for Kabul

Since independence from Great Britain in 1947, the two nuclear-armed states have been enemies and have fought three wars against each other, two of them over the Himalayan region of Kashmir, which is still the disputed Himalayan region between the two states. There are still minor skirmishes on the demarcation line there. India accuses Pakistan of training insurgents who fight for the independence of Kashmir from India. More than 68,000 people have died in the conflict since 1989.

Another point of contention is the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai, in which 166 people were killed. The Indian government repeatedly accused Islamabad of providing shelter to those behind the attacks. When the Pakistani authorities released the alleged mastermind of the attacks, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, on bail in April, this was sharply criticized by India.

Shortly before his visit to Lahore, Modi was first in Russia and then in Afghanistan. Before arriving in Pakistan, he made a stopover in Afghanistan and took part in the grand opening of a parliament building in Kabul, which was built with Indian help. He also handed over three Russian-made attack helicopters to the Afghan government. It was the first time India had delivered lethal weapons to Afghanistan. Previously, donations were limited to equipment that could not be used in combat. This was done in order not to irritate the Pakistani government, which would take it as an affront if India were to arm the neighboring country in such an offensive manner.