Ending a three-day suspense, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today decided to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi on Monday, a day after which the two leaders will hold a bilateral meeting.
Sharif, who was invited along with other six Heads of Governments and States of SAARC grouping on May 21, will arrive in the Indian capital shortly before Modi is sworn-in at Rashtrapati Bhawan at 6 pm.
The Pakistan Prime Minister will be accompanied by a delegation comprising of his Advisor on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, Special Assistant Tariq Fatemi and Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry among others.
The announcement by Sharif's Office that he has accepted Modi's invitation ended widespread speculation as to whether Pakistani Army establishment and other hardline elements would prove to be a hurdle in his responding to the invitation positively.
Pakistan Prime Minister's brother and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif met the Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif last night for about half-an-hour and conveyed to him the importance of the visit to India for maintaining good relations between the two countries and peace in the region, PML-N party sources told PTI.
"According to the programme received from India, the Prime Minister will have a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Modi on the morning of May 27. The Prime Minister would also call on the President of India. The Prime Minister would return to Pakistan in the afternoon of May 27, 2014," a Foreign Office statement said here.
Asked about the expectations from the Sharif-Modi meet, Pakistan Foreign Ministry sources said the two leaders are meeting for the first time and the effort will be to take forward the relationship.
Prime Minister Sharif had telephoned Modi to congratulate him on his party's election victory and invited him to visit Pakistan after assuming office.
Modi has invited all the leaders of member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to the ceremony.
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom have already confirmed that they will attend the ceremony at the forecourt of the historic Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi.
Bangladesh will be represented by Parliament Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury at the swearing-in ceremony as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will be on a visit to Japan on that day.
Chaudhury and Bhutan Prime Minister Tobgay will arrive here tomorrow.
Modi will have "short duration bilateral meetings" with all the visiting dignitaries that will also be attended by restricted delegation from each side, the External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson said.
During these meets, the leaders are expected to talk about ways to take forward the bilateral ties as also other key common challenges.
On the scheduling of the bilateral talks, sources said the Presidents will be the first, followed by the Prime Ministers and other representatives. And in this sequence, an alphabetical order will be followed, they said.
After the swearing-in on May 26, the President will host a dinner for the leaders.
Meanwhile, leaders of major political parties in Pakistan today welcomed Sharif's decision to accept India's invitation to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Modi.
Syed Khursheed Shah, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly and senior politician from Pakistan Peoples Party, was quoted by Radio Pakistan as saying that the visit would have a positive impact on the region and result in building cordial relations between the two sides.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman said by accepting the invitation, the government has given a clear message that it wants peaceful settlement of all outstanding issues with India.
President Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Makhdoom Javed Hashmi welcomed the decision and said the visit of the Prime Minister is in the interest of the country and there would be progress over core issues between Pakistan and India.
Awami National Party leader Ghulam Ahmad Bilour said the Prime Minister has taken a very good decision to participate in Modi's swearing-in ceremony.