Narendra Modi sworn in as India's new PM with Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif looking on

The fact that nationalist Modi will not be vulnerable to attacks from the right could help him in his dealings with Pakistan

Delhi

India’s newly elected leader will on Tuesday have an official meeting with his Pakistani counterpart amid cautious optimism on both sides of the border the two leaders can push forward their countries’ vexed and painful relationship.

A day after he was sworn in as India’s 15th prime minister, Narendra Modi will have a 30-minute meeting with Nawaz Sharif, whose decision to come to Delhi and attend the ceremony marked an historic first between the two nations.

The relationship, heavy with the weight of history, is in something of a stalemate as the two terms of India’s Congress-led government ran their course without making much progress. The 2008 attack on Mumbai by Pakistani militants set back any advances that had been made and added to the mutual distrust felt between two nations that have gone to war on four occasions.

Many in India believe the Hindu nationalist Mr Modi, who earlier his month won a landslide election victory, will have more capacity to deal with Pakistan as he will not be vulnerable to attacks from the right. His counterpart, who last year was elected for the third time as premier, is also seen as a nationalist and a religious conservative.

Mr Sharif was one of eight foreign leaders who attended Mr Modi’s beguiling swearing-in ceremony against the backdrop of Delhi’s Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official residence of India’s president. After Mr Modi issued the invitation to Mr Sharif and the other leaders of the nations that make up the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, there was intense debate inside Pakistan as to whether or not he should accept.

 

As it was, Mr Sharif decided the potential benefits outweighed the risks. “This is a chance to reach out to each other. Both governments have a strong mandate,” he said in an interview with India’s NDTV television channel. “Both countries should rid the region of instability and security that has plagued us for decades.”

Nobody thinks India and Pakistan are set to become best friends anytime soon. India believes Pakistan is doing insufficient to control militants and has moved too slowly to bring to justice those responsible for the three-day assault on Mumbai that left more than 160 people dead.

Pakistan, meanwhile, accuses India of refusing to want to address the issue of Kashmir, the Muslim majority territory which both countries claim and over which there have been repeated clashes and bloodshed.

But some believe that Tuesday’s meeting between the two premiers, when they are likely to focus on boosting trade, could provide an opportunity to size each other up.

Neelam Deo, an analyst and director of the Indian Council on Global Relations, said she expected no major breakthrough on Tuesday. “I don’t think there is going to be anything substantial from the first meeting,” she said. “But I do think they will take the measure of each other.”

Mr Sharif took several days before responding to Mr Modi’s invitation to attend Monday’s event and there were many in both countries who thought he should not come. As it was, Monday marked the first time that a leader from either side had attended the swearing-in of a premier from the other country.

Hassan Askari Rizvi, a political scientist based in Lahore, said many in Pakistan believed Mr Modi was someone they could do business with. He said there were still concerns about Mr Modi’s record in Gujarat, where hundreds of Muslims were killed in 2002, and over some of the statements he made about Pakistan during his election campaign.

However, many there remember efforts made by a previous Indian prime minister from Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who in 1999 famously took a bus to Lahore as part of a peace initiative. His counterpart in Pakistan on that visit was Mr Sharif.

“There is a lot of hope that he can help bring change,” said Mr Rizvi. “There is hope that the dialogue between the two countries could start again in a couple of months.”

Taking his oath in Hindu, Mr Modi, 63, the son of a tea salesman who secured the biggest mandate in India for 30 years after a campaign when he pushed a message of growth and development, said he would “maintain the integrity of India”. 

In a message posted on the website of the prime minister’s office, Mr Modi said he believed he could work with India’s citizens to create a “glorious future”. “Let us together dream of a strong, developed and inclusive India that actively engages with the global community to strengthen the cause of world peace and development,” he said.

Also taking the oath of office with Mr Modi, in front of an audience that included Bollywood actors, leading industrialists and foreign diplomats, were the 45 ministers who will make up his government.

Among the senior positions, Arun Jaitely will take on defence and finance, Shushma Swaraj is lined up to become India’s foreign minister, while Rajnath Singh, the head of the BJP, will become home minister. Seven women ministers have been named in the cabinet.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test