LAHORE — Pakistan Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has left for New Delhi to attend the swearing-in ceremony of newly elect Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi on Monday (today), reported The News International.
The 63-year-old hardliner won a landslide election victory, handing him a powerful mandate to revive India´s stagnant economy and implement more assertive foreign policy after 10 years of left-leaning Congress party rule.
Modi, leader of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, invited Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif to Monday´s ceremony in a first bold step aimed at mending strained ties between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
Sharif, who has hailed Modi’s “impressive victory”, accepted the invite which was extended to all heads of government from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) which includes Pakistan.
“Great having leaders from SAARC nations & Mauritius join us during the ceremony. Their presence will make the occasion more memorable,” Modi said in a tweet on Sunday.
Many Muslims remain deeply suspicious of Modi, who is tainted by communal riots in Gujarat in 2002 that killed more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims.
Modi has denied he failed to stop the bloodshed and a court investigation found he had no case to answer.
Modi and his yet-to-be-announced cabinet will be sworn in at the Rashtrapati Bhavan or president´s mansion in New Delhi amid tight security in a ceremony starting at 6pm (1230 GMT) with 3,000 guests.
Along with Sharif, other national leaders attending include Afghanistan´s outgoing President Hamid Karzai, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse and Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala.
Modi will hold bilateral talks with Sharif on Tuesday with hopes the two can thaw ties and even take steps towards improving trade.
Sharif has cited his working relationship with Atal Behari Vajpayee, India´s last BJP prime minister, as a reason for optimism, according to diplomatic sources.
In 1999, during Sharif´s second term in power, Vajpayee rode a bus to the Pakistani city of Lahore to sign a peace accord and raise hopes of normalized ties.
But three months later, the neighbors embarked on the Kargil conflict in Kashmir that almost became a full-fledged war.