Bilateral talks with SAARC leaders likely on Tuesday

Bilateral talks with SAARC leaders likely on Tuesday

Prime minister-designate Narendra Modi’s diplomatic engagements with leaders of the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) nations, who will be attending the swearing-in ceremony, will begin just a day after he assumes office. 

Modi will have a series of bilateral meetings with the leaders at Hyderabad House here on Tuesday.

According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay have already responded to New Delhi’s invitation and confirmed their participation in the swearing-in ceremony.

In a first-of-its-kind diplomatic move, the prime minister-designate on Wednesday got the government to invite to his swearing-in ceremony leaders of all the seven other SAARC nations. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will not attend the ceremony as she will be on a pre-scheduled tour to Japan from May 24-28. 

Dhaka has conveyed to New Delhi that Bangladesh will be represented by the Speaker of the country’s Parliament, Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is yet to take a call on New Delhi’s invitation.

Sources told Deccan Herald that Modi will host a banquet in honour of the visiting SAARC leaders and their representatives at the Hyderabad House on May 26 evening, soon after being sworn in as the 15th prime minister of India. The MEA has moved into top gear since Modi expressed his desire to invite the SAARC leaders.

The ministry has assigned New Delhi’s envoy to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization headquarters in Paris, Ruchira Kamboj, to oversee protocol arrangements. Kamboj headed the protocol division of the MEA till recently.

Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh and other officials of the MEA will brief Modi about India’s relations with all the SAARC nations before he goes for bilateral meeting with the leaders and representatives of the countries.

This may be Karzai’s last visit to India as president of Afghanistan before his tenure ends with the election of his successor next month. 

His discussion with Modi is likely to include a review of the infrastructure and small development projects funded by India in Afghanistan, security cooperation between the two countries, status of the peace-process with Taliban and the row between Kabul and Washington over the Bilateral Security Agreement to determine the level of residual US troops to remain in the war-ravaged country after the withdrawal of foreign forces by the end of this year.

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