New Delhi: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will attend Narendra Modi's oath-taking ceremony on Monday, his office has confirmed.
"On the invitation of Prime Minister designate Narendra Modi, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will visit New Delhi," PML-N Spokesperson Siddiq Al Farooq said today.
The two leaders will hold a bilateral meeting on May 27, Mr Sharif's office said in a statement that added that he will also meet President Pranab Mukherjee. Sources say the Pakistan PM is also likely to invite Mr Modi to visit Pakistan.
The Pakistani delegation will include Sartaj Aziz, advisor to the PM on national security and foreign affairs, Tariq Fatehmi, special assistant to the PM on foreign affairs and foreign secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry.
"Hope this will usher in a new era between India and Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif has always said that he wants to maintain good relations with all neighbouring countries, specially with India," Mr Sharif's media advisor, Tariq Azim, told NDTV and later added that "we should not burden the meeting with many expectations." (Watch video here)
Welcoming the move, BJP leader Prakash Javadekar said, "This is very good news." ( Hope Nawaz Sharif's Nod to Invite Will Mark New Start in Ties: Omar Abdullah )
Congress' Manish Tewari however did not sound too optimistic. "We do hope the BJP remains true to the position that it has maintained in last 10 years," he said and added, "Terror and talks cannot go hand in hand." (Hope BJP Raises Issues Like 26/11 Trial and Hafiz Saeed with Pak: Congress)
Invitations for the oath-taking ceremony were sent to all heads of government from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) on Wednesday. All nations have confirmed their participation. (Sonia, Rahul Gandhi to Attend Narendra Modi's Swearing-In )
PM Sharif reportedly resisted pressure from hardliners in Pakistan who were against his visit to India. Sources say his brother met Pakistan's army chief yesterday to discuss the invitation.
Mr Modi's move to invite Mr Sharif signals a big shift in his party's position on Pakistan. While campaigning for the general election, Mr Modi attacked the Congress-led UPA government for what he called a "stagnated" and "weak" foreign policy. "The heads of our soldiers are cut but then their Prime Minister is fed chicken biryani," he had said in a speech, referring to the beheading of an Indian jawan at the border last year.