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Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (left), administers the oath of office to new Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) at the presidential palace in New Delhi, India, May 26. Modi’s inauguration is the first to which India invited leaders from across South Asia. (AP)
Modi sworn in as India’s PM promising ‘inclusive’ agenda Pakistan’s Sharif says ‘a chance to reach out to each other’

NEW DELHI, May 26, (AFP): India’s Narendra Modi was sworn in as prime minister Monday with the strongest mandate of any leader for 30 years, promising to forge a “strong and inclusive” country on a first day that signalled his bold intentions. The 63-year-old Hindu nationalist broke with tradition and invited his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif to the ceremony. Sharif hailed a “great moment and a great opportunity” for peace in the region.

The pro-business leader was also expected to reveal a sharply reduced government of 45 members, a cut of 26 from that of his predecessor Manmohan Singh, to try to speed up decision- making and slash India’s notorious bureaucracy. “Together we will script a glorious future for India,” Modi said in a statement posted on the website of the prime minister shortly after he took the oath in front of President Pranab Mukherjee. “Let us together dream of a strong, developed and inclusive India that actively engages with the global community to strengthen the cause of world peace and development,” the statement said.

He said in his statement that he was elected with “a mandate for development, good governance and stability” — avoiding any reference to the Hindu nationalist plank of his party’s election manifesto. Senior members in his government are Arun Jaitley, tipped as finance minister, Sushma Swaraj, likely to be foreign minister, and Rajnath Singh, who is lined up for the home portfolio.

Figures such as Uma Bharti, a hardliner once expelled from the BJP after accusing the party of abandoning core Hindu concerns, indicated that the religious right would retain some influence. As stocks markets rose at the prospect of a pro-business leader taking the helm of the world’s largest democracy, the prime minister of India’s nuclear-armed rival gave voice to a widespread sense of optimism. “This is a chance to reach out to each other. Both governments have a strong mandate,”

Pakistan premier Sharif told India’s NDTV network, according to a transcript provided by the Pakistan High Commission. “Both countries should rid the region of instability and security that has plagued us for decades,” he said. Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama congratulated Narendra Modi and said he was looking forward to working with him after he was sworn in as Indian prime minister on Monday.

“As the president and prime minister agreed in their call after the election, as the world’s two largest democracies, India and the United States share a deep bond and commitment to promoting economic opportunity, freedom, and security for our people and around the world,” a White House statement said. “We look forward to working closely together with the new government to continue to strengthen and expand the USIndia strategic partnership for years to come.”

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