An important message that is doing the rounds in Delhi's power corridors is that Narendra Modi is no greenhorn in diplomacy, as was believed to be thus far, since he himself took the initiative to invite SAARC leaders. Besides, he involved the ministry of external affairs through a proper protocol process after noticing that his aides were sitting on a diplomatic disaster.
Insiders confirm that Modi, along with President Pranab Mukherjee, salvaged the situation as some of Modi's aides had contacted Delhi-based envoys of the SAARC countries, asking them to convey the invitation to attend the swearing-in to their political leadership back home. The aides did not extend any formal invitation to the envoys of SAARC nations.
Although they had conveyed the message with Modi's concurrence, the eight envoys had protested the burying of protocol norms, and had collectively decided not to send any message to their capitals unless they received a formal proper invitation through regular diplomatic channels. It is reported that Sri Lankan high commissioner wanted to know whether enough thought had been given to the idea of extending the invite to
President Mahinda Rajapaksa in view of the opposition from BJP's Tamil allies. When the Prime Minister-designate discussed inviting SAARC leaders with President Pranab Mukherjee, he was told to rope in the ministry of external affairs to send invitations through a mechanism of protocol.
According to protocol, Mukherjee will host Sri Lanka's Rajapaksa and Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai, who will be on the front row, followed by the Prime Ministers of Pakistan, Nepal, the Maldives, Mauritius and Bhutan. Bangladesh, represented by the speaker of its Parliament, Shirin Chaudhury, will follow next. South Block has drafted its master organiser, former chief of protocol Ruchira Kamboj, now posted in Paris as India's Unesco envoy, to assist the new officer Pradeep Rawat in organizing the ceremony.
A 30-minute session for bilateral discussions is planned between Nawaz Sharif and Modi on Tuesday morning. Pakistan is expected to grant India MFN status now called non-restrictive trade regime. This was approved by Pakistan cabinet last March, but was delayed due to elections in India.
Sharif will hold private meetings with prominent Indian businessmen; the non-restrictive trade regime is likely to help Pakistan export market.
Sharif will offer prayers at the Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah before returning to Islamabad.