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India's Modi invites Pakistan PM to his swearing in: Party

AFP , Wednesday 21 May 2014
India's next prime minister and Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Narendra Modi displays the letter from the Indian President inviting him to form the new government, outside the Presidential Palace in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, May 20, 2014 (Photo: AP)
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Indian prime minister-elect Narendra Modi has invited Pakistan's premier Nawaz Sharif as well as other South Asian leaders to his swearing-in ceremony next Monday, a spokeswoman for his party told AFP.

Nirmala Sitharaman, from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said all heads of government from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation "have been given invitations to be present at Mr Modi's swearing in."

Modi is to take the oath as prime minister on May 26, ten days after a landslide win for the BJP which secured the first majority by a single party in 30 years.

A senior official from India's foreign ministry confirmed that it was examining a proposal to welcome foreign heads of governments, but said that invites had not yet been sent.

"We have not sent any invite yet. There is a proposal but we can't share the details yet," the official told AFP.

Sharif, who is himself a centre-right leader, has hailed Modi's "impressive victory" with many diplomats hoping the two men can engineer a thaw in ties between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

Sharif has cited his working relationship with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, India's last prime minister under the right-wing BJP, as a reason for optimism, according to diplomatic sources.

In 1999 during Sharif's second term in power, Vajpayee rode a bus to Lahore to sign a peace accord, raising the prospect of normalised ties.

Three months later, the countries embarked on the Kargil conflict in the Himalayan region of Kashmir.

India and Pakistan have fought three fully fledged wars since independence in 1947 and bilateral ties broke down after attacks on Indian commercial hub Mumbai in 2008 in which 166 people were killed by Pakistani gunmen.

Relations have warmed slightly since under outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, but remain frosty amid mutual distrust and regular skirmishes on their disputed border in Kashmir.

Modi had warned during campaigning that talks could not be held with Pakistan until all violence stopped.

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