Modi Accepts Pak PM's Congratulations, Doesn't Extend Invite to Swearing-in Ceremony

In their first telephonic conversation since July 2018, Modi referred to his earlier suggestion of fighting poverty together.

New Delhi: Three days after getting an even bigger mandate than he did in the previous elections, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke with his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan to accept congratulations. Modi, however, did not extend an invitation to his swearing-in ceremony.

This is their first phone conversation since Modi called up Khan on the latter’s electoral victory in July 2018. The Pakistan prime minister had apparently attempted to speak with Modi during the hight of tensions in February after the Pulwama attack and retaliatory airstrikes.

The two leaders are also scheduled to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan on June 13-14.

The Pakistan foreign office spokesperson was the first to go public about the phone call through a couple of tweets.

According to the Pakistani spokesperson, Khan “expressed his desire for both countries to work together for the betterment of their peoples”. The Pakistani PM also stated that he looked forward to “working with Prime Minister Modi to advance these objectives”.

A press release from India’s external affairs ministry stated that Modi referred to his own earlier suggestion of fighting poverty together.

“Recalling his initiatives in line with his government’s neighbourhood first policy, Prime Minister Modi referred to his earlier suggestion to the Prime Minister of Pakistan to fight poverty jointly,” said the MEA communique.

Modi had called Imran Khan on July 30, 2018 to congratulate him on his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) emerging as the largest political party in the general elections. As per the MEA press note, he had spoken about his “vision of peace and development in the entire neighbourhood”. As per a readout from PTI, Modi had suggested the possibility of evolving a “joint strategy” for progressing in their bilateral affairs.

Since then, the relations between the countries have grown more fraught, with tensions peaking over the February 14 bomb attack in Pulwama.

During elections, the ruling party’s electoral platform had highlighted the muscular security policy, especially the airstrikes that reportedly targeted a Jaish-e-Mohammad facility at Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

Not surprisingly, the MEA press communique on the Sunday phone call added that Modi “stressed that creating trust and an environment free of violence and terrorism were essential for fostering cooperation for peace, progress and prosperity in our region”.

Meanwhile, sources confirmed that there was no invitation extended to Pakistan Prime Minister to attend the swearing-in ceremony.

In 2014, then Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had joined six other South Asian leaders and the prime minister of Mauritius at the oath-taking ceremony on the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhawan.

There is still no clarity on the participation of foreign leaders, though the net has been thrown beyond South Asia to BIMSTEC and OIC members.