Three days after he was invited, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday announced that he will travel to New Delhi on May 26
to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi, following which he will hold bilateral talks.
Sharif, who will reach Delhi on Monday, would be accompanied by his adviser on national security and foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz, special assistant Tariq Fatemi and foreign secretary Aizaz Chaudhry, among others.
The announcement by the Prime Minister’s Office ended the suspense over Sharif’s visit that was being opposed by hardliners in Islamabad.
The development came after Sharif’s brother and Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif met Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif on Friday and conveyed to him the importance of the visit to India for maintaining good relations between the two countries, PML-N party sources said.
“According to the programme received from India, the Prime Minister will have a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Modi on the morning of May 27. The Prime Minister would also call on the President of India. The Prime Minister would return to Pakistan in the afternoon of May 27,” a foreign office statement in Islamabad said.
The delay in Sharif confirming his attendance at the swearing-in ceremony was attributed to opposition from hardliners in the army.
Asked about the expectations from the Sharif-Modi meet, Pakistan foreign ministry sources said the two leaders are meeting for the first time and the effort will be to take the relationship forward. Sharif had telephoned Modi to congratulate him on his party’s victory and invited him to visit Pakistan after assuming office.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Bhutan PM Tshering Tobgay, Nepal PM Sushil Koirala and Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom have confirmed attendance. Bangladesh will be represented by Parliament speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, as PM Sheikh Hasina will be on a visit to Japan.
Sonia Gandhi and Rahul will represent Congress at the swearing-in ceremony.