Indian prime minister-elect Narendra Modi has invited Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other leaders of neighboring countries to his swearing-in ceremony on May 26, a spokesperson for the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, said Wednesday.
While Sharif's presence is doubtful, if he does attend the ceremony, it would be the first visit by a Pakistani head of state to such a ceremony in India. Other leaders from the eight-member South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, or SAARC, will also be on the guest list, the spokesperson reportedly said. The SAARC bloc includes Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. The Ministry of External Affairs has reportedly started sending out invites for the inauguration ceremony.
"All the SAARC countries have been invited through the proper channels to be part of the swearing-in ceremony" the spokesperson reportedly said.
Although it was unclear if Sharif would accept the invitation, analysts reportedly said the visit would be politically difficult. According to Reuters, Pakistan's high commission in New Delhi denied receiving any invitation so far.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam also reportedly said: "There is no invitation yet, they have announced in the media that they are inviting," Pakistan's News International reported.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s office said that the president would participate in the inauguration. "The president has got the invitation similar (to) all other South Asian leaders. President Rajapaksa...will participate in the inauguration," a presidential aide told Reuters.
Omar Abdullah, chief minister of the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, wrote on his Twitter account, praising Modi’s move: “Excellent move by @narendramodi to invite SAARC leaders, especially Pak PM for his swearing in. Hope this is beginning of sustained talks,” before adding in another tweet: “At the same time I can't help wonder what BJP would have said if a PM designate Rahul Gandhi had done the same thing.”