BANGLADESH PRIME Minister Sheikh Hasina arrived in Delhi Saturday, being the first of the seven foreign leaders to reach India to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his third-term.

Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu also confirmed his visit as he accepted the invitation, which was personally delivered by the Indian High Commissioner in Male.

In a statement issued by the President’s office, Muizzu said he looked forward to working with Prime Minister Modi to further strengthen the ties with India, noting that Maldives-India relations are “heading in the positive direction”. This is an important signal to New Delhi, that Male was keen to repair the bilateral ties that had suffered a setback since Muizzu rode to power last year over the anti-India plank. This is the first time that Muizzu, who had even referred to India as a bully, has positively assessed the bilateral relationship.

Seychelles Vice President Ahmed Afif also arrived Saturday, while remaining leaders from Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives and Mauritius will be arriving Sunday.

The Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement Saturday confirming the names of the leaders attending the ceremony on Sunday. “The swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Council of Ministers following the General Elections 2024 is scheduled on 09 June 2024. On the occasion, leaders from India’s neighborhood and Indian Ocean region have been cordially invited as distinguished guests,” it said.

Festive offer

“President of Sri Lanka, Ranil Wickremesinghe; President of Maldives, Mohamed Muizzu; Vice-President of Seychelles, Ahmed Afif; Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina; Prime Minister of Mauritius, Pravind Kumar Jugnauth; Prime Minister of Nepal, Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’; and Prime Minister of Bhutan, Tshering Tobgay, have accepted the invitation to attend,” it said.

Apart from participating in the swearing-in ceremony, the ministry said the leaders will attend a banquet hosted by President Droupadi Murmu at Rashtrapati Bhavan Sunday evening.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Hasina and Seychelles Vice President Afif were welcomed by Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs Muktesh Pardeshi, and other senior officials from the Indian government and Bangladesh High Commission.

“First distinguished guest sets foot in New Delhi for the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister and Council of Ministers. PM Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh warmly received by Secy (CPV & OIA) @mukteshpardeshi as she arrived in New Delhi. This visit of one of our most valued partners will further strengthen – close and deep-rooted bonds of friendship,” the MEA official spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said in a post on X.

In the previous two times when Bangladesh was invited for the swearing-in ceremony in 2014 and 2019, Hasina could not come due to prior commitments. In 2014, she had sent Bangladesh parliament’s Speaker Shirin Shermin Chaudhury and in 2019, Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid had attended the ceremony. So, this is the first time Hasina is attending Modi’s swearing-in ceremony.

Hasina had visited India last in September 2023, when she came as a leader of the guest country invited to India’s G20 Presidency.

She is expected to meet Prime Minister Modi on Sunday and Monday and leave for Dhaka Monday evening.

Hasina is also likely to meet the Gandhi family, as sources said that schedule is being worked out. While she had not been able to meet the Gandhis during her last visit in September 2023 during the G20 summit, she had met Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, her daughter Priyanka Gandhi and former PM Manmohan Singh in the October 2019 visit.

In Male, the Maldives President’s office said that Muizzu has accepted the invitation to attend the swearing-in ceremony.

“Munu Mahawar, High Commissioner of the Republic of India to the Republic of Maldives, presented the letter of invitation to the President during a courtesy call at the President’s Office. At the call, the High Commissioner extended greetings from Prime Minister Modi, stating that the Prime Minister is looking forward to having the President attend this momentous ceremony marking his third swearing-in as Prime Minister of India. The President expressed his gratitude to the Prime Minister for the invitation, adding that he would be honored to attend this historic event,” the Maldives President’s office said.

He also stated that he looks forward to working with the Prime Minister to further strengthen the close relations with India, noting that Maldives-India relations is heading in the positive direction, as would be demonstrated by this visit. The President thanked the High Commissioner for personally delivering the invitation,” it said.

The Ministry of External Affairs said that the visit of the leaders to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Modi for his third consecutive term is in keeping with the highest priority accorded by India to its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy and ‘SAGAR’ vision. .

Modi had invited SAARC leaders in 2014 and BIMSTEC leaders in 2019. Leaders from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Myanmar are not part of the list of leaders this time. While India has strained ties with Pakistan, there are no diplomatic ties with the Taliban regime, and Myanmar’s military-ruled junta is battling a crisis at home, as it is fighting with opposition groups.