The decision to invite regional leaders for Narendra Modi’s swearing-in was planned at a meeting of former national security and foreign service officials close to the Bharatiya Janata Party, government sources said here on Friday.
Following Mr. Modi’s approval, the sources said, informal consultations with diplomatic missions of the SAARC states in New Delhi were held.
Experts were, however, divided on the wisdom of the initiative. “The rules of the game should be settled before any major diplomatic initiatives,” said Ajai Sahni at the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi. “This kind of gesture seems to be a little impulsive.”
But Mr. Modi’s surprise outreach, an advisor present at the meeting said, was intended to allay regional fears that his rise to power would herald a new hawkishness in Indian foreign policy. The BJP leader had ruffled feathers in Bangladesh, threatening to expel migrants from the northeast, while Sri Lanka was concerned over the influence ethnic nationalists in Tamil Nadu might have over Mr. Modi’s foreign policy.
“Part of the idea,” a senior national security official present at the meeting said, “is to test whether Pakistan’s Prime Minister will be able to buck military pressures by visiting New Delhi. It will be a sign whether he is his own boss or not.”
Mr. Modi’s willingness to engage with Pakistan early in his tenure surprised many, given the hard line he adopted during his election campaign. He had lashed out at the outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for holding a “biryani meeting” with Nawaz Sharif in New York, following the killing of Indian troops on the Line of Control. Mr. Modi demanded that Dr. Singh “call off this meeting.”
An Indian soldier was killed in fresh fighting on the Line of Control on Sunday but there was no official reaction from Mr. Modi.