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Indian PM Narendra Modi makes surprise visit to Pakistan

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ISLAMABAD — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made a surprise stopover in Pakistan to meet his counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, the first time an Indian premier has visited the rival nation in over a decade.

Mr Sharif hugged Mr Modi after he arrived at the airport in the eastern city of Lahore before the two boarded a helicopter for Mr Sharif’s nearby estate, state television showed.

A spokesman at the Pakistani Prime Minister’s office said the two leaders would discuss a range of bilateral issues, including the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, the most contentious issue dividing the nuclear-armed rivals.

Mr Modi was on his way home after a visit to Russia. He stopped off in the Afghanistan capital Kabul earlier on Friday.

His visit is the first by an Indian prime minister to Pakistan since the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which 166 people were killed in the Indian city by militants trained in Pakistan.

After months of a freeze, India and Pakistan resumed high-level contacts with a brief conversation between Mr Sharif and Mr Modi at climate change talks in Paris late last month, part of efforts to restart a peace dialogue plagued by militant attacks and long-standing distrust.

External Link: Modi hugs Sharif tweet
Mr Modi, who inaugurated a new parliament complex built with Indian help in Kabul, spoke to Mr Sharif earlier on Friday to wish him well on his 66th birthday.

“Looking forward to meeting PM Nawaz Sharif in Lahore today afternoon, where I will drop by on my way back to Delhi,” Mr Modi tweeted.

The two prime ministers flew to Mr Sharif’s estate in Lahore named Jati Umra, after his family’s ancestral home in a Punjabi village in India, Pakistan state TV said.

India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval said the move should not be seen as a sudden shift in India’s position.

The two countries were born out of British colonial India in 1947, divided into Hindu-majority India and Islamic Pakistan.

Mr Modi, a Hindu nationalist, came to power in 2014, and authorised a more robust approach to Pakistan, giving security forces the licence to retaliate forcefully along their disputed border and demanding an end to insurgent attacks in Indian territory.

Reuters

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Maldives opposition legislator Ibrahim Mohamed Solih wins presidency

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MALE — Maldives opposition legislator Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has beaten incumbent Abdulla Yameen according to provisional results, the country’s Elections Commission says.

Results released by the Elections Commission showed Mr Solih securing 133,808 votes (58.3 percent) compared to the 95,526 for incumbent Abdulla Yameen. The voter turnout was over 88 per cent out of the 262,000-strong electorate.

The Maldives government has acknowledged the opposition’s victory after the vote on Sunday, a surprise defeat for President Abdulla Yameen who was widely expected to win.

There were no other candidates.

Mr Solih had the backing of a united opposition trying to oust Mr Yameen, but struggled for visibility with the electorate, with local media fearful of falling afoul of heavy-handed decrees and reporting restrictions.

“I call on Yameen to respect the will of the people and bring about a peaceful, smooth transfer of power,” Solih said on television, shortly after interim results from the country’s election commission.

“We have won this election with a comfortable majority,” Solih said.

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