Modi Invites Saarc Heads
While Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is yet to make up his mind on whether to visit Delhi following an invite to attend the May 26 swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi, Sri Lanka strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa, outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom are expected to attend the ceremony. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina may send a representative for the event at the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, likely to be attended by over 3,000 guests. During his meeting with President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday, Modi conveyed his wish to invite Saarc leaders for the swearing-in ceremony. This could be Karzai’s last trip to Delhi, who shares excellent relations with India. The new President in Kabul will take charge soon. “Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh has written to Saarc counterparts inviting their leaders to attend the swearing-in ceremony on May 26,” MEA spokesperson Syed Akbarrudin said. This is for the first time that these foreign leaders are invited to a Prime Minister’s swearing-in ceremony since 1952. Hasina, who will be on a trip to Japan, may not be able to attend the ceremony, but she has invited Modi to visit Dhaka at the earliest. She was the first foreign leader to congratulate Modi and send him a message on May 16 within hours of the election results. There’s no word yet from Yameen and Koirala on their presence. Yameen had visited Delhi earlier this year on his maiden trip abroad as Maldivian President. But the spotlight will be on Sharif ’s participation. Sources in the Pakistani government told ET that there was no confirmation yet at this stage of their PM attending the event. Sharif had telephoned Modi on May 16 itself and invited him to visit Islamabad. Managing relations with Pakistan will be a tough ask for Modi.
AT THE MEET: Hamid Karzai (top) and Mahinda Rajapaksa