Modi invites Pak PM, SAARC leaders for swearing-in

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on November 24, 2017

Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan PM

Sri Lankan, Afghan and Bhutanese heads of state express willingness to attend

In a first, Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi has invited Pakistan Premier Nawaz Sharif and the heads of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) member-nations for his swearing-in ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on May 26.

There is no precedent for foreign heads of state being invited to a Prime Minister’s swearing-in ceremony. The invites are being sent through the Ministry of External Affairs to the Heads of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Nawaz Sharif was, incidentally, among the first heads of state to hail Modi’s “impressive victory” in the general elections and invite the Indian leader to visit his country.

If Sharif does accept Modi’s invitation, for the first time a Pakistani head of state will be attending the swearing-in ceremony of an Indian Prime Minister. Confirming the invitations, BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman told Business Line that the initiative had been taken from Modi’s side as a “fresh and welcoming gesture towards all neighbours”.

And, following the protocol, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh has written to her SAARC counterparts inviting their leaders to attend the swearing-in ceremony, said a spokesperson in the External Affairs Ministry.

While the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi said it had not yet received an invitation, which must be issued formally by the Foreign Ministry, Reuters quoted an aide of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa as indicating that he would attend the inauguration. “The President has got the invitation similar (to) all other South Asian leaders. President Rajapaksa ... will participate in the inauguration,” a presidential aide told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

According to a PTI report, besides the Sri Lankan President, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay have expressed their willingness to attend the swearing-in.

Excellent move: Omar

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted: “Excellent move by @narendramodi to invite SAARC leaders, especially Pak PM for his swearing-in. Hope this is beginning of sustained talks.” Minutes later, he again posted: “At the same time I can’t help wonder what BJP would have said if a PM designate Rahul Gandhi had done the same thing.”

Published on May 21, 2014

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