Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is confirmed to be in attendance for the inauguration of India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This marks the first time since their independence in 1947 that the head of state of one of the rival nations has attended the other’s inauguration. Sharif arrived with a delegation of fourteen to represent Pakistan at the ceremony.
PM Sharif was seen waving at cameras while making his way to Modi’s inauguration. Sharif said Modi’s invite was a sign of a “great opportunity” for the neighboring states. “I am carrying a message of peace. Dialogue is the only solution,” he said.
Modi’s invitation to Sharif is seen as extending an olive branch to better relations between the two states. The two countries have gone to war against each other three times since independence in 1947.
The Pakistani Prime Mnister observed that now could be a time for the further mending of relations between the two states. “We [India and Pakistan] have a historic moment to open a new chapter. The new government under Mr. Modi has a strong mandate, and I look forward to picking up the relationship,” he said.
Sharif observed that the two prime ministers could build bridges through the leaders’ business acumen. “I am regarded as a friend of businessmen, and we are regarded as a business-friendly government. Modi too is perceived as a business-friendly person. He has a model of development,” Sharif said.
On Sunday, as part of a “goodwill gesture” before the swearing-in ceremony, Sharif released 151 Indian prisoners. Most of the jailed individuals were arrested for illegally fishing on Pakistani territory. They were detained along with their 57 fishing boats. “The prime minister has instructed that 151 Indian prisoners currently detained in Pakistani jails and 57 Indian fishing boats in Pakistani custody should be released on Monday,” said a senior Pakistani official. The official continued, “Pakistan has always held that the issue of prisoners in our respective countries is a humanitarian one and should be taken in that spirit.”
New Indian PM Modi was thrilled with the move. He said, “I welcome the step by Sri Lanka & Pakistan to release our fishermen. I welcome our fishermen brothers back home!” That same day, Sri Lanka released its own batch of arrested Indian fishermen, which was seen as a gesture to promote a stronger bond with India and its new Prime Minister.