M A I N   N E W S

Sharif ignores hawks, accepts Modi invite
Adviser Aziz to accompany Pak PM
Two sides will hold talks a day after swearing-in
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 24
The suspense is over. Pakistan Premier Nawaz Sharif today finally accepted Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi’s invitation to visit New Delhi for his swearing-in ceremony on Monday.

India has received a confirmation of Sharif’s participation in the ceremony, MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin tweeted. Now that Sharif has confirmed his participation, leaders of all SAARC nations would, for the first time, be present at the oath-taking ceremony of an Indian Prime Minister.

In June last year, Sharif had invited former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to his swearing-in ceremony, but he could not attend it.

Sharif’s decision to visit India in the face of stiff opposition from hardliners, particularly Jamat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, is being seen as a bold move to revive talks with India and give a new direction to relations between the two countries. It took him nearly three days to consult all stakeholders, including the Army, in Pakistan and eventually decide in favour of undertaking the visit.

A close aide of Nawaz Sharif said there was a consensus that he should attend the ceremony despite opposition by some religious hardliners. There is a speculation that yesterday’s pre-dawn attack on the Indian Consulate at Herat in Afghanistan might have also pushed Sharif to honour Modi’s invite. Sources said Sharif would be accompanied by a small delegation, comprising his Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz, Special Assistant Tariq Fatemi and Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry. He would arrive on Monday and attend the swearing-in ceremony in the evening, along with other SAARC leaders, at the Rashrapati Bhavan.

Later, there would be a banquet in the honour of all visiting leaders. The next day, Modi and Sharif are scheduled to hold talks. It is not clear if there would be a one-on-one meeting between the two leaders or they would meet along with their delegations. The Pakistani leader is scheduled to return home in the afternoon.

Sources discounted the possibility of any breakthrough during the meeting since the discussions would be informal in nature. But the meeting would provide them an opportunity to get to know each other and consider how the stalled dialogue could be revived.

Their meeting would be keenly observed not only in India and Pakistan, but also in major world capitals against the backdrop of the tough stance taken by Modi on Pakistan’s role in sponsoring terrorism against India during his election campaign.

Political parties in India have welcomed Sharif’s decision to visit India for the oath-taking ceremony of Modi. BJP leader Prakash Javadekar said Sharif’s visit would mark a new beginning in the ties between the two nations. Congress leader Rashid Alvi said the meeting would provide an opportunity to Modi to raise issues such as Dawood Ibrahim and beheading of an Indian soldier.

(With inputs from Afzal Khan in Islamabad)

Sonia, Rahul to be present

New Delhi: Sonia Gandhi and Rahul will represent the Congress at the swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister on Monday. The Congress president congratulated Modi on May 20 hours after he was elected leader of the BJP parliamentary party and the NDA. — PTI

Pakistan to release 152 Indian fishermen

Vadodara: The Pakistan Government will release 152 Indian fishermen on May 26, when Narendra Modi takes oath as PM in presence of Nawaz Sharif and other heads of SAARC countries. A team from Gujarat has been sent to receive them at the Wagah border in Punjab, a senior state government official said on Saturday. — PTI

MDMK to protest Rajapaksa visit

Chennai: Opposing the invitation to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa for Modi’s swearing-in as the Prime Minister, BJP ally MDMK on Saturday announced a black flag demonstration against the head of the island republic in Delhi on May 26. A similar protest would be also held in Chennai on the same day. — PTI





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