A handout photograph shows PM Narendra Modi (4-R), along with President Pranab Mukherjee (5-R) and VP Hamid Ansari (C), with invited foreign dignitaries at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi. (EPA Photo)
The regional bonhomie and solidarity were in full display at the inauguration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhawan on Monday.
And it continued into the private power dinner President Pranab Mukherjee hosted for the visiting leaders. This is the first time all SAARC leaders were invited for an Indian Prime Minister’s swearing-in. The other guest country outside SAARC, Mationritius, is an observer to the south Asian bloc.
The select guest list at the dinner included vice-president Hamid Ansari, outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and senior ministers including Sushma Swaraj and Rajnath Singh.
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrived to an applause from many among the 4,000 plus guests to attend the swearing-in. Modi and Sharif, first Pakistan prime minister to attend the swearing-in of an Indian PM, touched an emotional chord during their interaction.
“This time when he was eating with his Mother he saw visuals on TV of my Mother offering me sweets," Modi tweeted.
“The visuals touched both Nawaz Sharif ji & his Mother. He told me that after seeing the visuals his Mother got very emotional,” the Prime Minister tweeted.
“Nawaz Sharif ji told me that he stays in Islamabad but goes to meet his Mother once in a week”, said another tweet.
Walking down the memory lane, Sharif is set to meet former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on Wednesday.
After the swearing-in ceremony, Sharif said he felt honoured to be part of the event.
“I think people of both countries are very happy... I feel honoured to be part of the ceremony,” he said replying to a question by reporters.
The only missing head of government from SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Corporation) grouping, Sheikh Hasnia sent a message to Modi where she praised his “dynamic and sagacious” leadership and extended “most cordial invitation” to visit Bangladesh at the “earliest of his convenience”, yet again.
Hasina also recalled India’s role in her country’s liberation struggle.
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Ministers of Bhutan and Nepal Tshering Tobgay and Sushil Koirala respectively, Mauritius prime minister Navin Ramgoolam and Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and Bangladesh speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhuri along with one of their aides present for the dinner. An eclectic spread of 18 Indian cuisines from various Indian states was laid out for the guests.
It included melon soup, Chettinad Chicken (Tamil Nadu), Tandoori Aloo, prawn stew, Birbali Kofta curry (Mughlai), Jaipuri Bhindi (Rajasthan), Dal Makhani (Punjab) and Potol Dorma (Bengal) besides kela methi nu shaak, the Gujarati dish which has bitterness of methi (Fenugreek) complemented by the sweetness of banana, Galouti Kebab and Sandesh.