Unlike 2014, when India invited leaders of SAARC member countries, including Pakistan, to the swearing-in ceremony of the PM, it has kept that grouping out and sent invites to leaders of BIMSTEC countries for the event. In 2014, then Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif had attended the ceremony.
Modi and his council of ministers will take the oath of office at 7 pm on Thursday. Apart from the leaders of BIMSTEC countries, New Delhi has also invited the president of Kyrgyzstan and prime minister of Mauritius. BIMSTEC, or Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, is a grouping comprising Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan.
A Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson said India has invited the leaders of the BIMSTEC member states for the swearing-in ceremony. “This is in line with the government’s focus on its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy,” the spokesperson said.
“The President of the Kyrgyz Republic, who is the current chair of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the Prime Minister of Mauritius, who was the chief guest at this year's Pravasi Bhartiya Divas, have also been invited,” he said. Modi will visit Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, in mid-June to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit. New Delhi had invited the Mauritian prime minister in 2014 as well.
SAARC, or South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, comprises Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
However, SAARC has nearly been defunct in the last few years after India, and several other members, pulled out of the SAARC Summit that was to be held in Islamabad in 2016. Subsequent to the terror attack on India's Pathankot air base in January 2016 and the Uri terror attack in September in which 19 Indian soldiers were killed, India had asked Pakistan to show credible action in dismantling terror infrastructure in its territory. Several SAARC members had supported India’s stand. There has not been a SAARC Summit since the one in Kathmandu in November 2014. India has repeatedly said “talks and terror” cannot go together.
India has sought to strengthen the BIMSTEC grouping since then. When India hosted the BRICS Summit in Goa in September 2016, it also invited BIMSTEC leaders for the BRICS regional outreach on that occasion under the rubric of BRICS-BIMSTEC Summit.
A major plank of Prime Minister Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls was that it was tough on Pakistan on the issue of terror, having replied in kind with the surgical strike after the Uri attack as well as the Balakot air raid after the Pulwama terror attack in February this year.