US lauds Indian govt’s invitation to SAARC leaders

US lauds Indian govt's invitation to SAARC leadersWASHINGTON: The US today welcomed Indian government’s initiative to invite SAARC leaders to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi and said increased engagement between India and Pakistan is a “positive step”.

“Broadly speaking, we welcome increased engagement between India and Pakistan and their leaders and other leaders in the region and India’s engagement with its neighbors leading up to the inauguration,” State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters.

However, she refrained from answering a question on whether the US would encourage the Pakistani leadership to attend Modi’s swearing-in ceremony on May 26.

“I don’t think we’re going to get into that level of engagement, but certainly the invitation has been issued. We support increased dialogue and this is representative of that,” Psaki said.

“We believe increased engagement between India and Pakistan is a positive step, so we’ll see what happens,” she said, adding that the United States does not have any plans to send anyone for the swearing-in ceremony on May 26.

“We don’t have any plans to send a representative from the United States. It’s standard for events and inaugurations in India, so it should come as no surprise,” Psaki said, referring to the fact that the US has never sent any delegation for Indian prime ministerial swearing-in ceremony.

For the first time, SAARC Heads of State and Government including Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Bangladesh Premier Sheikh Hasina have been invited to the swearing-in ceremony.

“Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh has written to SAARC counterparts inviting their leaders to attend swearing-in ceremony on 26th May,” the Spokesperson in the External Affairs Ministry said today.

Apart from Sharif, Rajapaksa and Hasina, other SAARC leaders are –
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

This is for the first time these foreign leaders are invited to a Prime Minister’s swearing-in ceremony.–PTI

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