India's Narendra Modi invites Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif for his inauguration

The invitation is being seen as a gesture of friendship from Narendra Modi, as well as a clever, tactical move by the new prime minister.
By Ananth Baliga  |  May 21, 2014 at 9:08 AM
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NEW DELHI, May 21 (UPI) -- Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi made a big statement Wednesday by inviting Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to his inauguration on May 26.

Modi is inviting most regional leaders to his inauguration, and this is the first time a Pakistani leader is being invited for the event. Other leaders from the regional group South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, or SAARC, are being invited as well.

"He has invited all heads of state and government from the SAARC region," said Hardeep Singh Puri, former U.N. envoy and a member of the Bhartiya Janta Party.

Tasnim Aslam, a spokeswoman for Pakistan's foreign ministry, said that no official invitation had been received so far. If he chooses to go, this would be Sharif's first visit to India since becoming prime minister.

The move is being closely watched by analysts because on the campaign trail, Modi said that the he would take a strong position in dealing with India's neighbors, after former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had to deal with Pakistan very carefully following the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, which India holds Pakistan accountable for.

Modi has been very vocal about his stand on national security, and the BJP has advocated a tough stance against Pakistan. But the invitation suggests there will be differences between Modi the politician and Modi the prime minister. The offer is being seen in the region as a gesture of friendship and possibly even a clever, tactical move by the new prime minister.

Last week, Sharif invited Modi to Pakistan, following the latter's landslide victory in India's general election. Modi is yet to respond to that invitation.

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