NEW DELHI: For the first time, the swearing-in ceremony of an India Prime Minister was not just an Indian event, but an unprecedented South Asian phenomenon. While regional leaders witnessed it in person at Rashtrapati Bhavan, citizens across the subcontinent tuned into the live broadcast on TV channels.
Sitting in the front row were eight leaders — Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Bhutan PM Tshering Tobgay, Maldives President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, Bangladesh speaker Shirin Chaudhury and Mauritius PM Navin Ramgoolam.
At the end of 90-minute ceremony, all the leaders were taken to the dais to shake hands with the new Indian leader. Noticeably, Narendra Modi almost reached out to shake Sharif’s hand, with whom he shared arguably the longest and warmest handshake. This was their first-ever face-to-face interaction.
Perhaps, out of all the foreign VVIPs who had come for Modi’s swearing-in, the presence of Sharif was the most unprecedented.
The five-star hotel where Sharif and his entourage were staying had become a beacon for security and media, with the lobby abuzz with activity.
After reaching around 11 pm, Sharif was immediately ensconced in his suite, with sources indicating that he was meeting some senior journalists and businessmen. It is believed that Sharif was also keen to meet with former Prime Minister A B Vajpayee.