Six SAARC leaders attending Modi swearing-in, Pakistan yet to confirm

New Delhi: Six SAARC neighbours have confirmed their attendance at the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi, but Pakistan has yet to confirm if Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will attend Monday’s ceremony, officials said Friday.

The dignitaries who are arriving include: Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen, Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, Bangladesh Parliament Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury – all from South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries. Mauritius Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam is also attending.

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“We are waiting for confirmation from Pakistan,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said at a press briefing here. He said he did not want to comment on a report that the Pakistan Foreign Office has recommended that Sharif attend the ceremony.

“The Foreign Office has made the recommendation and the decision will most likely be in (its) favour,” a Foreign Office official said, according to a Pakistan media report.

The leader of opposition in Pakistan’s National Assembly, Khurshid Ahmed Shah has also urged Sharif to accept the invitation in the larger interest of the people of the two countries.

Modi, who is to be sworn-in in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan Monday evening, would hold brief bilateral talks with each leader the following day. On May 26 night, he would host a banquet for all the dignitaries.

Akbaruddin said there would be “short duration meetings” between the visiting leaders and the Indian leadership. “These will be individual meetings. They will be scheduled on May 27,” he added. This is the first time that the heads of SAARC nations are being invited for a swearing-in of an Indian prime minister.

Rajapaksa has invited the chief minister of Tamil-dominated Northern Provinces C.V. Vigneswaran to join the Sri Lankan delegation. The latter is yet to confirm his acceptance.