NEW DELHI: Ending days of suspense and overcoming domestic opposition, Pakistan on Saturday finally announced that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will attend the swearing-in ceremony of PM-designate Narendra Modi on Monday, after which a bilateral meeting would be held on the following day.
The announcement came three days after invitations were sent out to eight foreign leaders, seven from SAARC countries and Mauritius by Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh on Wednesday.
A press statement from the Pakistan foreign office said that accepting the invitation, Sharif “would be travelling to New Delhi on May 26, 2014”.
It said the Pakistan delegation would consist of Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Tariq Fatemi, Secretary to the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, besides Sharif.
The release said both the PMs will have a bilateral meeting on Tuesday, along with a call on President Pranab Mukherjee. Sharif and his delegation would return home on the same day.
The delay in decision-making was attributed to resistance from several quarters, namely the Army and Islamist groups, to Sharif travelling to attend Modi’s inauguration. All the other invited foreign leaders had sent their confirmation within 24 hours.
Ahead of an India-Pakistan meeting, there was an inordinate amount of attention, which usually overshadows any diplomatic event, and it is likely to happen in this case as well.
In order to deflect expectations, officials from both sides pointed out that any meetings held at such short notice and within a tight schedule are unlikely to have any substance.
In New Delhi, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin described the meetings as “courtesy” meets.