Modi In­vites Saarc Heads

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics -

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

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