“Neighbourhood First” focus
When he became Prime Minister five years ago, Narendra Modi invited SAARC leaders for his swearing-in. As he re-enters office, the ceremony will be attended by leaders from the BIMSTEC countries, Kyrgyz Republic, and Mauritius.
The invite to leaders from Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal, and Bhutan — countries in the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation — is part of Modi’s “Neighbourhood First” focus. The Kyrgyz Republic is currently Chair of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO); the Prime Minister of Mauritius was the Chief Guest at this year’s Pravasi Bharatiya Divas.
After the 2014 outreach to SAARC countries failed to take off due to tensions with Pakistan; this is the PM’s fresh effort to reach out diplomatically to the neighbourhood, the diaspora, and the China-Russia-led regional grouping of Central Asian countries.
1. Bangladesh President Hamid will represent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is travelling to Japan.
2. President Sirisena, who has been in office since 2015, of Sri Lanka.
3. President Win Myint is an important ally of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, who is constitutionally barred from becoming President. He is representing Suu Kyi, who is travelling to Europe.
4. President Jeenbekov of Kyrgyzthan, he is attending the swearing-in as Kyrgyz Republic is the Chair of the SCO.
5. Prime Minister Oli is Chairman of the Nepal Communist Party, and was PM earlier from October 2015 to August 2016. His relationship with India soured during the infamous Nepal blockade, but ties have improved since he returned to power in 2018.
6. Prime Minister Jugnauth of Mauritus, he is the son of former PM Sir Anerood Jugnauth, and visited India in January this year as the Chief Guest of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas.
7. Grisada Boonrach is trusted aide of Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha. Minister Boonrach is attending on behalf of the Prime Minister, who is busy with the formation of the government in Thailand.