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Pakistan PM to attend India PM-elect Modi's swearing-in

Publication Date : 25-05-2014


Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will attend the swearing-in ceremony of Indian Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi tomorrow, in the first move towards repairing frayed ties between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

Sharif, who is the last of the eight South Asian leaders to respond to the invitation for the swearing in, will also meet Modi and call on Indian President Pranab Mukherjee.

Sources described the get-together between the two leaders scheduled for 20 to 30 minutes on Tuesday as a "courtesy meeting" to touch "on broad issues" between the two countries.

In an unprecedented move, Modi, who is coming to power after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won decisively this month, surprised the diplomatic community by inviting leaders from neighbouring countries including Pakistan to attend his swearing-in at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, or President's house.

Ties between India and Pakistan dipped early last year after the killing of two Indian soldiers near their de facto border. India blamed Pakistan, but Islamabad denied it was behind the killings.

The incident sparked shooting across the border, the worst in recent times, between the armies of the two countries across the Line of Control, the de facto border between India and Pakistan. That was brought under control soon after both countries went into election mode.

While no major announcement or developments are expected from Tuesday's meeting, analysts said it will be important.

"They will be getting to know each other," said former Indian ambassador to the United States Ronen Sen. "In all relations, personal equations do matter. Establishing a personal chemistry or equation will have a positive impact. It's a very good beginning."

The last visit by a Pakistani leader to India was when Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf made a private visit last year to a 13th-century shrine of a Sufi saint.

Modi will also meet other heads of government from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), including Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

"It is gratifying that SAARC countries have readily responded to the invitation," said BJP spokesman Nirmala Sitaraman.

"This is one of the not so well integrated regions in the world, unlike the EU (European Union) or Asean. So in spite of that, the response to the invite is heartwarming. We can look forward to such initiatives to improve the relationship."

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