2:17 pm - Thursday July 18, 2024

Invitation to SAARC heads sparks row, but BJP holds firm

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Despite a huge row over the invitation to SAARC leaders for his May 26 swearing-in, Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party, armed with a majority in the Lok Sabha, showed no signs of backing down from a move that heralds a foreign policy free from the pressures of domestic politics.

A day after BJP-ally MDMK leader Vaiko expressed unhappiness at the invitation to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa described it as “tantamount to rubbing salt into the wounds of the already deeply injured Tamil psyche.” Party sources indicated that she might skip the New Delhi function.

In a statement, Ms. Jayalalithaa said it has “deeply upset the people of Tamil Nadu and wounded their sentiments again” at a time the new government was expected “to be sympathetic to the cause of Tamils and friendly to the State of Tamil Nadu.” The move was “ill-advised” and could have been avoided.

The DMK’s T.K.S. Elangovan said Mr. Modi could have “avoided” inviting the Sri Lankan President as people in Tamil Nadu “are charged with anger” against Mr. Rajapaksa.

“It is for BJP to introspect as to whether terror and invitations can go hand in hand,” Congress spokesman Manish Tiwari said of the invite to Mr. Sharif. The BJP indicated there will be no reversal. “This is essentially an attempt to participate in a joyful celebration of democracy and the invite should be seen in that context,” party spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said.

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