New Delhi: The first indication that something unusual was taking place surrounding Prime Minister Narendra Modi's just-concluded Afghanistan visit - when he stopped over in Lahore on Friday on his way back home - became obvious on December 14 in Kochi.
Modi was on his maiden visit to Kerala 19 months after being sworn in as Prime Minister. One of his visitors in Kochi on December 14 was Cardinal Mar George Alencherry, the archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church.
Modi told the archbishop that he had sought the postponement of a tea party for Christian community leaders on Christmas Day at finance minister Arun Jaitley's residence and expressed regret for any inconvenience that may have been caused to the cardinal and others like him. Modi was to have "dropped in" on that tea party by prior arrangement.
A lot had gone into preparations for that tea party, which was to be projected as Modi's return to a key theme during his 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign - of a development agenda and negation of polarising politics and anti-minority rhetoric.
If it was being postponed despite its symbolism on Christmas Day, something very major must have been on the Prime Minister's mind. That "something" was his stopover in Lahore, it became clear on Friday. The rescheduled tea party, as of now, will take place on December 29 when Modi will be available to drop in.
Notwithstanding any official spin to the contrary that Modi made a spur-of-the-moment decision in Kabul to personally greet Nawaz Sharif on his birthday, it can be authoritatively said that a decision to continue his dialogue in Paris with the Pakistani Prime Minister was taken at least two weeks ago and the two sides had been working on it since.
As a corollary, at the Pakistani high commission in New Delhi and at the ministry of foreign affairs in Islamabad, there were clear signals all of a sudden that issues and papers related to India had begun moving.
The Telegraph, Kolkata