Diplomacy

Feelers Sent out to Foreign Leaders on Availability for Modi's Swearing-In Ceremony

Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena already indicated that he would be amenable to take part in the ceremony, which may be scheduled for May 30.

New Delhi: As speculation remains high about presence of foreign leaders at the swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi, feelers have been sent out to inquire about their availability, but formal invitation cards have not yet been delivered.

In 2014, leaders of all seven member nations of the SAARC and Indian ocean ally Mauritius attended the oath-taking ceremony of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister and his cabinet at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhawan.

Meanwhile, Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena already indicated that he would be amenable to take part in the ceremony, which may be scheduled for May 30.

His availability was indicated during Sirisena’s congratulatory phone call to Modi on Friday evening. However, he confirmed that no formal invitations have been delivered yet.

“This is a tentative invitation in which president is going to participate once the date is given,” President Sirisena’s coordinating secretary, Shiral Lakthilaka told The Wire.

Similarly, sources in Bhutan, Maldives and Afghanistan have confirmed that no formal invitations have been sent out from New Delhi, but their leaders are likely to be present if invited.

The only likely exclusion could likely be Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif had taken part in the ceremony in 2014, despite domestic opposition voice within.

It remains to be seen if Islamabad will get an invitation card, since Modi’s successful re-election pitch was largely based on India’s ‘robust’ retaliation against Pakistan for the Pulwama suicide bomb attack.

This time around, India is keen to thrown the net much wider. With the south Asian organisation stalled since India refused to attend the summit in Pakistan, New Delhi had given some attention to BIMSTEC, which is a made of five south Asian countries and two south-east Asian members.

According to sources, India tentatively inquired with Thailand, but the Thai authorities pointed out that their leaders were currently involved in their own government formation.

When contacted, MEA has denied media speculation about invitations being sent to foreign dignitaries for the swearing in ceremony. “At the moment, we have no information on this matter. We will share details with the media once a decision is taken,” said an official source.

After the swearing-in ceremony, Modi has a busy foreign travel schedule in the first month.

His previously confirmed trips are for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit on June 13-14 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and June 28-29 at G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan.

Observers are keeping an eye out to see if there will be any interaction between Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan at the SCO summit. This will be the first time they participate in a multilateral summit.

In Japan, Modi will be meeting US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit. This was agreed by both leaders during their phone conversation after Modi’s electoral victory.

He has to also decide on his first foreign bilateral trip. In 2014, it was Bhutan, which has been a traditional first foreign post for most Indian prime ministers. The destination is likely to be confirmed on Monday.

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