New Delhi (Reuters):
Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi’s invitation to the leaders of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and other neighbours to his swearing -in ceremony next week displeased other Indian politicos.
India, the regional heavyweight, has long had difficult ties not only with Pakistan over the disputed Kashmir issue, but also with smaller nations such as Sri Lanka over war crimes against Indian Tamils and with Nepal and Bangladesh over trade, immigration and river sharing issues.
India and Pakistan do not meet eye to eye with each other over certain issues including the issue of Kashmir which is principally split between the two neighbours, by a sparsely inhabited stretch of Himalayan plateau also held by China. The Indian-ruled portion, the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, is made up of the Muslim-dominated Kashmir valley, the Hindu-majority Jammu region and mainly Buddhist Ladakh.
Mahinda to attend Modi’s swearing-in
President Mahinda Rajapaksa has confirmed he will attend the swearing-in ceremony of Indian Prime Minister elect Narendra Modi, the Indian External Affairs Ministry said yesterday.
Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said that India has received the confirmation that President Rajapaksa will attend the event on 26 March.
“#India receives confirmation of participation from #SriLanka @PresRajapaksa to attend @narendramodi swearing-in ceremony on 26 May,” Akbaruddin tweeted yesterday.The President is among SAARC leaders invited by Narendra Modi to attend the event next week.
The restive region has witnessed numerous militant attacks, insurgency, and infiltration attempts from across the border in the last two decades.
But in reaching out to members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) at the very start of his administration, Modi may also be seeking to address concerns that long-time rival China is making inroads in the region.
Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, was on the guest list of leaders from the eight-member regional grouping invited to attend Modi’s swearing-in next Monday (May 26), in a move to strengthen crippled ties with many of country’s neighbours.
The BJP has long advocated a tough stance on Pakistan and Modi is seen as an uncompromising hardliner on issues of national security.
India’s Congress party, which was overthrown by Modi’s Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in the recent general elections, lashed out at Modi for changing his stance on Pakistan after the elections.
“On the one hand, they (Bharatiya Janata Party) created a huge uproar against Pakistan during the elections to gain votes and now Narendra Modi, who has not yet sworn-in as Prime Minister, has invited Pakistan for the oath- taking ceremony,” said Congress leader, Meem Afzal.
But his huge election victory also gives him the political capital to reach out to difficult neighbours, including Pakistan, in a way his predecessor Manmohan Singh could not, weakened by graft scandals and public discontent at home.
After his own election last year, Sharif’s administration had also suggested that the Indian prime minister be invited to attend the ceremony, but Singh declined.
If the Pakistani Prime Minister were to attend the planned ceremony in the forecourt of the presidential mansion, the event would be a first in the history of the nuclear-armed rivals, who have fought three wars since independence in 1947.
Meanwhile, a regional party of southern Tamil Nadu, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam(DMK), expressed concern over Modi’s move to send an invite to the Sri Lankan President.
A leader of the party, T.K.S Elangovan, said that Modi should have been more careful with the feelings of Indian Tamils.
“The prime minister should also understand the feelings of the people of Tamil Nadu that Tamils in the island are attacked, human rights violation are occurring and most of the countries have criticised such activities and the people of Tamil Nadu are charged with anger. He could have avoided. First time he is becoming the prime minister and he should have the wishes of all parts of India,” he said.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s office said he would fly to Delhi for Modi’s swearing-in ceremony. Sri Lanka has repeatedly rejected calls for an independent, international probe into accusations of war crimes committed during the war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which ended in May 2009. Tens of thousands of civilians, mostly Tamils, were killed in the final months of the war, according to a UN panel.
Rajapaksa is under fire from the UN Human Rights Council, which last year adopted a United States-sponsored resolution demanding that Sri Lanka ensure government troops who committed war crimes during the final stages of its war against Tamil rebels are brought to justice.
The 30-year-long civil war between the government and the Tamil Tiger rebels who at one time controlled large swathes of the north of the island state is estimated to have left tens of thousands of people dead or injured.
National spokesman of Bharatiya Janata Party, Nirmala Sitharaman, said that the party faced opposition from its own members for inviting several SAARC members, but was firm on solving issues with the neighbours.
“Yes I understand. And there are concerns being expressed by our own annexe. I am sure we can express the reasons why this invitation has been sent to not just one or the other, but all SAARC countries,” she said.