Indian PM Modi accepts invite for first Pakistan visit

In this handout photograph released by The Indian Press Information Bureau (PIB) on July 10, 2015, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) shakes hands with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
In this handout photograph released by The Indian Press Information Bureau (PIB) on July 10, 2015, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) shakes hands with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi accepted an invitation on Friday from his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif to attend a regional summit in Islamabad next year in what would be his first visit to Pakistan.

"Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reiterated his invitation to Prime Minister Modi to visit Pakistan for the SAARC Summit in 2016. Prime Minister Modi accepted that invitation," said a joint statement from the governments after the two leaders met on the sidelines of the ongoing BRICS summit in Russia.

Indian officials had previously refused to confirm Modi’s participation at the next summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), usually attended by leaders of eight countries in the region.

While Sharif did attend Modi’s inauguration in May last year, the nationalist Indian premier has not visited Pakistan since coming to power and relations between the two governments have been cool in recent months.

India has been particularly infuriated by delays in legal proceedings against the suspected mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai bombings who it wants extradited.

In the statement, the two governments said they would “discuss ways and means” to expedite the legal process, including the sharing of voice samples.

They also announced that their respective national security advisors would meet in New Delhi to discuss “terrorism” although they did not set a date for the talks.

And officials responsible for security on both sides of their sometimes volatile border would also meet soon, according to the statement which was read out to reporters in Russia by the two countries’ foreign secretaries.

Modi and Sharif met while attending a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation which is being held in the Russian city of Ufa.