Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi has invited the heads
of the governments of all South Asian states to attend his swearing-in in a
gesture, which diplomats and experts said was without precedent. Though
foreign envoys stationed in New Delhi have attended past swearings-in,
Ministry of External Affairs sources said, no world leader has been invited
to attend what has traditionally been seen as a domestic event.
The move startled regional diplomats-but also caused
surprise in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which was not consulted on the
decision, Bharatiya Janata Party sources said.
Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, the Ministry of External
Affairs said, despatched formal invitations afternoon to the Presidents or
Prime Ministers of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal,
Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's Presi-dent, has accepted
the invitation but there was no immediate word on which other leaders would
Mr. Modi's surprise outreach was intended to allay
regional fears that his rise to power would herald a new hawkishness in
Indian foreign policy. The Prime Minister-elect had ruffled feathers in
Bangladesh by threatening to expel migrants from India's north-east, while
Sri Lanka was concerned over the influence ethnic nationalists in Tamil Nadu
might have over his foreign policy.