Pranab had endorsed Modi invite to Saarc leaders

Pranab had endorsed  Modi invite to Saarc leaders

Pranab Mukherjee had endorsed prime minister-designate Narendra Modi’s plan to invite the leaders of Saarc countries, including Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, indicating a new chapter of warmth and understanding between the President and the prime minister.

Modi had broached the subject when he had called on Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan for the first time after his election as BJP Parliamentary Party leader on May 20, said officials.

A surprised President heard Modi's reasons for sending out the invitation, and suggested that he take the views of the ministries of defence and external affairs, as it was unprecedented.

But, by the time Modi picked his letter of appointment as prime minister and took leave of him, Mukherjee had given his endorsement to the idea,  which he understood from the prime minister-designate  was an attempt to send out a positive message to India’s neighbours.

With Mukherjee’s endorsement, a pleased Modi was convinced that his decision would be billed as a “diplomatic coup of sorts” to boost the image of the new government even before it took office, said BJP sources.

The President's endorsement was a shot in the arm for Modi, as he values Mukherjee's experience and understanding in such matters, having been in charge of both the defence and external affairs ministries under the Congress rule.

Modi later conveyed his plan to top BJP leaders, who informed the government. Subsequently, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh was asked to write to the respective governments, inviting their heads to attend the swearing-in ceremony. Mukherjee’s office later conveyed to Modi that the President wishes to host a dinner for the visiting heads of state at Rashtrapati Bhavan after the ceremony on Monday.

On Friday too, the two leaders were in touch soon after the attack on the Indian consulate in Afghanistan, in which four gunmen were killed. With the government in the process of transition, Mukherjee conveyed to Modi that he was issuing a statement to condemn the attack. Subsequently, Modi took stock of the situation, speaking to the Indian envoy to Afghanistan and other officials.

On May 20, it had been a one-on-one meeting between the two leaders. Mukherjee had warmly congratulated Modi, to which the prime-minister-to-be had said he had fulfilled the President's desire for a decisive mandate so that a stable government was formed.

Modi had recalled that Mukherjee's January 26 address to the nation had urged the people to give such a mandate.

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