India’s Modi invites PM Nawaz to swearing-in: party

NEW DELHI: Indian prime minister-elect Narendra Modi has invited Pakistan’s premier Nawaz Sharif to his swearing-in ceremony next Monday, his party said, in a bold diplomatic statement that he intends to improve strained ties.

Nirmala Sitharaman, spokeswoman for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), told AFP Wednesday that all heads of government from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation “have been given invitations to be present at Modi’s swearing in.”

The move, yet to be confirmed by Pakistan or other members of the eight-nation grouping, signals that Modi is intent on tackling India’s most troubled bilateral relationship at a time when Sharif is also keen on talks, analysts say.

“I think it is a very important gesture,” said Manoj Joshi, a fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi-based think-tank.

“It definitely shows Modi’s intentions to focus on immediate neighbours and it is a realistic signal; realism in the sense that unless you have good relations with neighbours you can hardly focus beyond,” he said.

Modi is to take the oath as prime minister next Monday, 10 days after a landslide win for the Hindu nationalist BJP which secured the first majority by a single party in 30 years.

The hardline leader was expected to usher in a more muscular foreign policy, insisting on the campaign trail that other countries would respect India only if it showed strong political leadership.

A senior official from India’s foreign ministry told AFP that it was examining a proposal to welcome foreign heads of governments next Monday, but said that invitations had not yet been sent.

Pakistani foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam also said that no invitation had been received.

“There is no invitation yet, they have announced in the media that they are inviting.”