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Sharif keeps New Delhi guessing
Modi invite: Warm response from SAARC leaders; TN parties oppose Rajapaksa visit
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 22
While most SAARC leaders today confirmed their participation at Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony on Monday, New Delhi continued to wait for Pakistan Premier Nawaz Sharif’s response to the invitation.

MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Maldives President Yameen Abdul Gayoom, Bhutan Prime Minister Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay and Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala would attend the oath-taking ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who would be in Japan on an official visit on May 26, has deputed Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury to attend the ceremony. Mauritius Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam, too, has confirmed his participation.

Speculation continued in the diplomatic circles on whether Sharif would respond positively to Modi’s initiative or send his representative to New Delhi. The Pakistan Foreign Office said a decision was likely to be taken tomorrow.

Sharif had invited Manmohan Singh to his inauguration in May last year but New Delhi asked its envoy in Islamabad to represent the country.

Back home, the decision to invite Rajapaksa has not gone down well with BJP allies in Tamil Nadu as well as Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa. The MDMK, an ally of the BJP, urged Modi not to allow Rajapaksa to participate in the ceremony. The PMK, another Rajapaksa critic, found itself in a fix with its lone MP Anbumani Ramadoss expected to be accommodated in the Cabinet.

There was no word yet from Vijayakant-led DMDK, another key ally of the BJP. Though she did not clarify if she would attend the ceremony, Jayalalithaa said inviting Rajapaksa amounted to “rubbing salt on the wounds” of the Tamils.

Officials say Modi may hold brief informal talks with visiting leaders but there was no possibility of any formal discussion on bilateral issues.

Indications are that the SAARC leaders would arrive on Monday morning and leave in the evening after the ceremony. A call on Manmohan Singh by some of them is also not ruled out.

Jaya, Vaiko miffed

"We had hoped that the new government would be sympathetic to the cause of Tamils... However, this unfortunate move has deeply upset the people of TN... This is tantamount to rubbing salt into the wounds of Tamils"— J Jayalalithaa, tamil nadu cm

"The Rajapaksa government committed the unpardonable crime of genocide of hundreds of innocent Tamils... In such a situation, it has come as a major jolt that an invitation has been sent to Rajapaksa" — Vaiko, mdmk founder





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