Nawaz Sharif lands in India

LAHORE - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrived in New Delhi on Monday to attend the oath-taking ceremony of India's prime minister-elect Narendra Modi.

Modi will be sworn-in as India's prime minister at a glittering ceremony that will be as much a show of his determination to be a key player on the global stage as a celebration of his stunning election victory. India's invitation to Nawaz for Modi's inauguration and bilateral talks extended a couple of days ago had come as a surprise, raising hopes for a thaw in relations between the two countries that have been particularly frosty since the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

In a goodwill gesture, Nawaz, who had accepted the invitation, ordered the release of 151 Indian prisoners on Sunday. The Pakistani leader’s attendance will be a first in the history of the two neighbours. Talking to journalists at the Lahore Airport before leaving for New Delhi, Nawaz said that he was visiting India with a message of peace as dialogue is the only solution to all problems.

He said that positive relationship with all the neighbouring countries including India was his prime preference. Nawaz stated that he was taking the message of love and peace with him to India and he looks forward to a new beginning for the people on both sides. He said that the only solution to the prevailing crisis in the region was through negotiations.

The officials who are accompanying the prime minister include Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi, Foreign Affairs Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry and Political Secretary Asif Kirmani. Hussain Nawaz, the son of Nawaz Sharif, is also joining him during the two-day visit.

The prime minister will have a bilateral meeting on Tuesday with Narendra Modi who has invited leaders of Pakistan and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to attend the ceremony. Officials said that the prime minister will also call on Indian President Pranab Mukherjee who will host a private dinner for Modi and SAARC leaders. Nawaz would return to Pakistan in the afternoon of May 27.

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