This Article is From May 27, 2014

Intend Picking Up from Where Vajpayee and I Left Off: Nawaz Sharif to NDTV

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who attended Narendra Modi's swearing-in as India's new Prime Minister on Monday, told NDTV he saw this as a "great moment and a great opportunity."

Hours after arriving in Delhi for the event, Mr Sharif said in his first TV interview, "I intend taking up threads from where (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee and I left off in 1999."  

The Pakistan premier, who took power last June for the third time, is among the six South Asian leaders invited to the oath ceremony. Mr Sharif's visit is being seen as a historic first for the regional rivals whose ties have been frosty since last year, when hostilities escalated after a series of ceasefire violations at the border.

Mr Sharif likened the BJP's election victory to his own win last year and said, "Both governments have a strong mandate. This could help in turning a new page in our relations. This is the same BJP's Prime Minister Vajpayee for whom I have the greatest of respect."

Mr Sharif, 64, will meet the new Prime Minister on Tuesday as part of a series of bilateral meetings with all eight world leaders. Indian officials see the meeting, scheduled for around noon, as an ice-breaker but the Pakistani leader described it as a chance to reach out to each other.

"We should remove fears, mistrust and misgivings about each other," he told NDTV, adding, "Both countries should rid the region of instability and security that has plagued us for decades."

During his poll campaign, Mr Modi had lashed out at the Congress for engaging with Pakistan despite the killing of Indian soldiers by troops from across the border.

His invitation to Mr Sharif has been described as a bold move in both countries, but has been sharply criticized by the BJP's oldest ally, Shiv Sena, which believes India must not resume cultural or cricketing ties with Pakistan unless violence along the border stops. Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said he would attend the swearing in even though it was "difficult to trust Pakistan."

The BJP's massive mandate - the party seized 282 seats on its own - means that it has room to act without pressure from its allies.