PM Modi was on his way home after a visit to Russia. He stopped off in the Afghanistan capital Kabul earlier on Friday. PM Modi and his counterpart Sharif resumed high-level contacts with a brief conversation 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 between the nuclear-armed rivals.

PM Modi, who inaugurated a new Parliament complex built with Indian help in Kabul, spoke to his counterpart Sharif earlier today to wish him 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," PM Modi tweeted.

A close aide to PM Modi said it was a spontaneous decision taken by the Prime Minister and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, and that it should not be seen as a sudden shift in India's position. "But yes, it's a clear signal that active engagement can be done at a quick pace," the aide said, declining to be identified.

Nalin Kohli, a spokesman for Bharatiya Janata Party, cited in New Delhi that India was ready to take two steps forward if Pakistan took one to improve ties.

The countries have fought three wars since 1947, two of them over Kashmir, the divided  Himalayan territory that both countries claim in full.

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