India will not invite Pakistan’s Imran Khan to Modi swearing-in ceremony

A former Pakistani prime minister attended Modi’s first inauguration, in 2014

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves to supporters at the Trade Facilitation Centre and Crafts Museum after offering prayers at the famous Kashi Vishwanath temple, in Varanasi on May 27, 2019. Thousands of jubilant supporters cheered Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 27 as he set about a victory rally in the Hindu holy city to Varanasi after sweeping the general elections. / AFP / SANJAY KANOJIA
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India will not invite Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony, a sign that any thawing of relations between the neighbours may be over.

Mr Modi will be inaugurated for his second term as prime minister of India on Thursday.

On Sunday, Mr Khan telephoned Mr Modi to congratulate him on his party’s victory in the recent elections, yet has reportedly not been invited to the ceremony.

The leaders of Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan have been invited to the event.

“This is in line with government’s focus on its Neighbourhood First policy,” an Indian government spokesman told Reuters.

Former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif was present in 2014 when Mr Modi was sworn in for his first term of office.

Last Thursday, after Mr Modi claimed victory in the elections, Mr Khan said on Twitter: “I congratulate Prime Minister Modi on the electoral victory of BJP and allies. Look forward to working with him for peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia.”

Pakistan tried to downplay the snub, local media said, with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi saying that “internal politics” prevented Mr Modi from extending an invitation to his Pakistani counterpart.

India has fought three wars with Pakistan since gaining independence from Britain in 1947. Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan came close to a fourth conflict in February after a suicide attack in the contested Kashmir region by a Pakistan-based militant group killed at least 40 Indian police.

Tension in Muslim-majority Kashmir has been high since the suicide bomb attack, with Indian troops and separatist militants clashing during the election, contributing more casualties in the three-decade insurgency.

Mr Modi’s tough response to the bomb attack, which included an air strike against what India said was a militant camp in Pakistan, is believed to have given his party a boost in a general election that began on April 11 and ends on May 19.

The acting leader of Pakistan’s Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party, Liaqat Baloch, said on Friday that Mr Modi had won the election with a “wave of anti-Pakistan sentiments and the Hindu bias,” and called for a more balanced approach towards regional peace.