Leaders of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) countries along with Presidents of Kyrgyzstan and Mauritius on Thursday witnessed the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Council of Ministers at the Rashtrapati Bhavan here.
These leaders were the special invitees of Prime Minister Modi who has been underlining the importance to be given to India's neighbourhood but significantly chose to ignore Pakistan Prime Minister this time unlike the last time.
BIMSTEC, besides India, includes Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The BIMSTEC leaders who attended the swearing-in ceremony were Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, Myanmar President U Win Myint, Nepalese Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, Bhutanese Prime Minister Lotay Tshering and Special Envoy of Thailand Grisada Boonrach.
Besides, Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov and Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth also graced the occasion.
The Kyrgyz President was invited in the capacity of current chair of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), whose Summit Modi will be attending next month.
After the swearing-in, President Ram Nath Kovind and Modi posed with the leaders individually for photographs on the forecourt of the magestic Rashtrapati Bhavan.
In 2014, when he took over as the Prime Minister for the first time, Modi had invited leaders of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member countries - Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Maldives.
Nawaz Sharif, then Prime Minister of Pakistan, had attended the ceremony along with other leaders of the SAARC nations and Modi had held bilateral talks with him after the event.
The event had generated hopes that Modi's gesture would make Pakistan change its inimical approach towards India. But these hopes were dashed as terror attacks emanating from Pakistan continued, prompting the Opposition to question Modi as to what he achieved by inviting Sharif.
Possibly, it was keeping that experience in mind and with Pulwama terror attack fresh in memory that Modi chose to invite leaders of BIMSTEC, rather than SAARC.
Five of the eight member countries of SAARC - India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka - are members of BIMSTEC too, while Pakistan, Afghanistan and Maldives are not.