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    May 26, 2014

    Modi sets the tone with swearing-in guest list


    HIS election win on May 16 was historic, and Indian Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi's swearing-in ceremony today is shaping up to be a first too.

    Already, the guest list is laden with meaning.

    Nearly 3,000 VIP guests will turn up for the occasion, to be held in the forecourt of the Presidential Palace - with an unprecedented attendance by the leaders and representatives of eight countries, including archrival Pakistan.

    Ending days of hesitation, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday accepted an Indian invitation to attend the swearing-in.

    People close to Mr Sharif say he was keen to accept the invitation, but the decision was still a tough one to make. Mr Modi is viewed warily in Pakistan, because of his hardline Hindu nationalist position.

    Meanwhile, inviting Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa has created a stir, since powerful regional leaders in the state of Tamil Nadu have long pressured the government in New Delhi not to engage with neighbouring Sri Lanka. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram plans to boycott the ceremony.

    The invitation to Mr Rajapaksa sends a powerful message that Mr Modi will make his decisions independently, thanks to his winning a robust majority of 282 seats in Parliament.

    Foreign policy analyst C. Raja Mohan told The New York Times: "He is signalling that he is going to do his own thing."