NEW DELHI/ LAHORE: Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the inauguration of Narendra Modi as his Indian counterpart Monday was a “great opportunity” for the two nuclear neighbours to open a new chapter in relations.

“It is a great moment and a great opportunity,” Sharif, who is in New Delhi as a guest for the swearing-in ceremony, told the NDTV network.

“This is a chance to reach out to each other. Both governments have a strong mandate,” he added, according to a transcript provided by the Pakistan High Commission.

“This could help in turning a new page in our relations,” he said.

Modi will be sworn today as India's prime minister at a glittering ceremony that will be as much a show of his determination to be a key player on the global stage as a celebration of his stunning election victory.

Sharif is the first Pakistani prime minister to attend the inauguration of an Indian leader since the creation of the two countries in 1947 after the end of British colonial rule. The two countries have since fought three wars and remain divided over the disputed region of Kashmir.

But Sharif, who is to hold bilateral talks with Modi on Tuesday, said that the neighbours should use their common heritage to help overcome their differences.

  Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif waves upon his arrival at the airport in New Delhi, May 26, 2014.—Photo by Reuters
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif waves upon his arrival at the airport in New Delhi, May 26, 2014.—Photo by Reuters

“No two nations have ever possessed so much of cultural and traditional similarities as India and Pakistan. Why not turn the similarities into our strength?” said Sharif.

“We should remove fears, mistrust and misgivings about each other.

“Both countries should rid the region of instability and security that has plagued us for decades.”

India's invitation to Sharif for Modi's inauguration and bilateral talks extended a couple of days ago had come as a surprise, raising hopes for a thaw in relations between the two countries that have been particularly frosty since the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

“I am carrying a message of peace. Dialogue is the only solution,” Sharif told reporters before leaving Lahore today.

In a goodwill gesture, Sharif ordered the release of 151 Indian prisoners on Sunday.


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