Regional leaders arrive in Delhi to attend Modi's oath ceremony

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New Delhi, Jun 9 (PTI) Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu, Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth and his Bhutanese counterpart Tshering Tobgay arrived in Delhi on Sunday to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi.

It is Muizzu's first visit to India after he became the island nation's president on November 17 last year.

Jugnauth, Muizzu and Tobgay are among the leaders of seven countries from India's neighbourhood and the Indian Ocean region attending the swearing-in ceremony of Modi and his council of ministers this evening at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

"President @MMuizzu of Maldives arrives to a warm welcome in New Delhi to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister and Council of Ministers," external affairs ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said on 'X'.

"India and Maldives are maritime partners and close neighbours," he added.

Bangladesh President Sheikh Hasina and Vice-President of Seychelles Ahmed Afif arrived in Delhi on Saturday.

After arrival of Tobgay, Jaiswal said the visit will "further strengthen close bonds of friendship and cooperation between India and Bhutan." Besides Muizzu, Tobgay, Jugnauth, Hasina and Afif, the other leaders attending the ceremony are Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' and Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The invitation by New Delhi to Muizzu to attend the swearing-in ceremony assumed significance as it came amid frosty ties between India and the Maldives.

On Saturday, Muizzu said he looked forward to working with Modi to further strengthen the close relations with India, noting that the relationship between the two countries is heading in the "positive direction".

The ties between India and the Maldives came under severe strain since Muizzu, known for his pro-China leanings, took charge of the top office.

Within hours of his oath, he had demanded the withdrawal of Indian military personnel from his country. The Indian military personnel were replaced by civilians earlier this month.

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

India has been cooperating with the countries of the Indian Ocean region under the broader policy framework of SAGAR or Security and Growth for all in the Region.

In addition to participating in the swearing-in ceremony, the foreign leaders will also attend a banquet hosted by President Droupadi Murmu.

Modi is likely to hold separate bilateral meetings with the foreign leaders.

The leaders of regional grouping SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) countries attended Modi's first swearing ceremony when he took the reins as the prime minister after a massive electoral victory for BJP.

Leaders of the BIMSTEC countries attended Modi's swearing-in ceremony, in 2019 when he became prime minister for the second consecutive term.

Though the BJP could not get a majority on its own in the recent Lok Sabha polls, the party-led alliance secured 293 seats out of 543. The majority mark in the lower house is 272. PTI MPB DV DV