NEW DELHI — Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi will be sworn in as India's new prime minister on Monday in a ceremony to be attended by Pakistan's premier for the first time in the two nations' history.
The 63-year-old hardliner won a landslide election victory, handing him a powerful mandate to revive India's stagnant economy and implement more assertive foreign policy after 10 years of left-leaning Congress party rule.
Modi, leader of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, invited Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif to Monday's ceremony in a first bold step aimed at mending strained ties between the neighbours.
Sharif, who has hailed Modi's "impressive victory," accepted the invite which was extended to all heads of government from the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) which includes Pakistan.
"Great having leaders from SAARC nations & Mauritius join us during the ceremony. Their presence will make the occasion more memorable," Modi said in a tweet on Sunday.
Modi secured the biggest majority in 30 years at the election, trouncing the Congress on a promise of reviving manufacturing and investment to create millions of jobs.
His pledge to overhaul the flagging economy won over voters, along with his rags-to-riches story and reputation as a clean and efficient chief minister of prosperous western Gujarat state.
Reason for optimism
Ordinary Indians and business leaders have sky-high expectations of what Modi will deliver in a chaotic and still poor country that is home to a sixth of humanity. With the economy growing at under five per cent, analysts warn bold reforms are needed.
In a rare sign of emotion last week, Modi choked back tears as he promised to try to live up to the expectations of all Indians including "our weakest and poorest" during a speech in parliament.
Modi and his yet-to-be-announced cabinet will be sworn in at the Rashtrapati Bhavan or president's mansion in New Delhi amid tight security in a ceremony starting at 6pm (1230 GMT) with 3,000 guests.
Along with Sharif, other national leaders attending include Afghanistan's outgoing President Hamid Karzai, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse and Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala.
Modi will hold bilateral talks with Sharif on Tuesday with hopes the two can thaw ties and even take steps towards improving trade. — AFP