Skip to main content

India inauguration: South Asian leaders unite around Narendra Modi

updated 6:13 PM EDT, Mon May 26, 2014
  • NEW: Narendra Modi is sworn in as prime minister
  • The unprecedented event brings together regional leaders including Pakistan's PM
  • Invitation to leaders described as a "terrific" move
  • Modi is seen as hawkish by some political watchers

New Delhi (CNN) -- Narendra Modi took the oath of office Monday to become the 15th prime minister of India.

The swearing-in took place in a tightly guarded ceremony at the Colonial-era presidential mansion in New Delhi.

For the first time, leaders of an entire South Asian region attended, including Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister of India's traditional archrival, Pakistan.

But it's not just the guest list that makes this inauguration historic.

Never in the past three decades has a political party taken up the reins of the world's largest democracy with an absolute majority.

Pakistan PM to attend India inauguration
Modi a 'calculated risk' for India
What changes will Modi make in India?

And never before has a provincial chief with no federal experience become head of a national government.

Unprecedented invitation

In attendance on the sprawling forecourt of the sandstone palace were the premiers of Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal and Mauritius; the presidents of Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives; and the speaker of Bangladesh, officials say.

"A promising gesture," read the headline of an editorial in the Indian Express on Friday about India's unprecedented invitation to the leaders of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation bloc.

Until his election to Parliament this month, Modi, a chief minister of the prosperous northwestern state of Gujarat, has been seen as hawkish by some political watchers, especially over relations with nuclear archrival Pakistan.

His Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has often accused the administration of outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of being soft on its western neighbor, which New Delhi blames for a number of terror attacks in India, including the deadly 2008 assault in Mumbai. Both countries have fought three wars, two of them over the Himalayan region of Kashmir, which both claim as their own in its entirety.

An editorial in the Indian Express said Modi's "terrific" move to invite regional leaders "should help generate a more realistic appreciation of India's foreign-policy trajectory in the coming years."

"What matters in the end, however, is the prospect of a more self-assured government in Delhi that is ready to engage the neighbors without standing on protocol and precedent," it added.

Economic hope

More growth, more employment, more infrastructure, lower inflation is just motherhood and apple pie.
Jahangir Aziz, J.P. Morgan

Credited for his pro-business approach as the chief of Gujarat, India's new leader has also raised expectations that his government will succeed in turning around India's slowing economy, generate more jobs and rein in soaring prices and deeply entrenched corruption, issues that are widely believed to have brought about the fall of Singh's government.

Modi's party won 282 seats of the 543-seat lower house of Parliament on its own, the first independent win by any single political party in three decades. India has since been ruled by coalitions of national and regional groupings with varied political and economic philosophies.

"The BJP's single-handed majority in the new parliament ensures at least one thing: no more excuses of fractured coalition politics compromising policies and reforms," said Jahangir Aziz, J.P. Morgan's chief Asia economist, in a column in the Indian Express.

"More growth, more employment, more infrastructure, lower inflation is just motherhood and apple pie. Identifying and articulating the binding constraints holding these back is the heart of the problem," he wrote.

Political analysts also describe the debacle of Singh's Congress Party government as a vote against crushing prices.

"Moderation in prices of essential commodities is a potential challenge for Modi's government in a market-driven economy," political commentator K.G. Suresh said. "The honeymoon period will not last longer if measures are not taken in the next 100 days to bring costs down," he added.

Modi's Cabinet, observers say, will signify his government's model and course.

"It has to be a dream team that balances demands and side effects of growth with promises of low prices to millions of poverty-stricken Indians. It has to be a smart mix of youth and experience with a cohesive approach. With pressures of coalition politics no longer there, the last thing India would expect the new prime minister's core team to be is a chariot pulled by horses running in different directions," Suresh said.

Friend or foe? India's Narendra Modi an unknown quantity abroad

Securing India's energy a major challenge for new PM Modi

Memo to Modi: How to reboot India

Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:21 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
In an ambitious plan to upgrade urban India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he will build 100 "smart cities" across the country.
updated 7:39 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
A few weeks ago, a young boy tied to a Mumbai bus stop barely received a glance from passersby. Now, he has a home, thanks to a local NGO.
updated 8:02 AM EDT, Tue July 15, 2014
When a 14-year-old girl was pulled from her home and raped, police revealed the assault was ordered by the head of her village council.
updated 6:49 PM EDT, Thu July 10, 2014
If you believe the mood here, India is going to be the next China, the new frontier of global growth.
updated 3:58 AM EDT, Tue July 8, 2014
Decrepit constructions that don't conform to safety codes are a big problem in cities and towns across India.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Fri July 11, 2014
When Raju the elephant was rescued after being shackled and abused for five decades, the story and picture of him "crying" went viral.
updated 12:09 PM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
The tall cylindrical concrete structures hold solar powered machines that look and function like an ATM. Instead of cash, they dispense water.
updated 8:27 PM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
Despite not having a national team in the tournament, many Indians have caught World Cup fever. Mallika Kapur reports.
updated 10:33 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
An Indian grandmother tells CNN's Mallika Kapur why she tied her grandson to a bus stop.
updated 10:12 PM EDT, Wed June 18, 2014
India has a rape crisis -- but it will take a broad effort to change it.
updated 8:04 PM EDT, Mon June 16, 2014
Could certain spices help you live longer? CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports from Delhi, India.
updated 3:25 PM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
CNN's Mallika Kapur takes a look at the push for change in India after another brutal rape has shocked the nation.
updated 9:24 AM EDT, Tue May 27, 2014
Is there a historic opportunity for peace and understanding between the two nations?
updated 11:10 PM EDT, Mon May 19, 2014
What will Narendra Modi's India look like? Likely less inclusive and less secular, say analysts.
updated 10:50 PM EDT, Mon May 26, 2014
India's new leader is considered a wildcard. Will he be aggressive, or a dove? What is his foreign policy? Does he have a vision?
updated 12:00 AM EDT, Mon May 26, 2014
For incoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi, securing India's energy needs over the next decade ranks among his greatest challenges.
updated 3:38 AM EDT, Fri May 16, 2014
Narenda Modi's track record leaves some worried about the future, writes Sunny Hundal.
Varanasi was a battleground in the elections. It's also holy ground for Hindus, a last stop for the dying.
updated 3:57 AM EDT, Thu May 15, 2014
CNN's Ravi Agrawal says China gets things done; India invents ways not to.
Decades ago, she was attacked at a rural police station, and her landmark case awakened India. What happened to her?
updated 2:18 PM EDT, Mon May 5, 2014
The spread of polio constitutes an international public health emergency, the World Health Organization declared Monday.
updated 6:03 AM EDT, Thu May 8, 2014
Air quality in most cities that monitor their pollution levels exceed what the World Health Organization deems as safe.
updated 11:07 PM EDT, Sun April 6, 2014
In India, many see George W. Bush as a better friend than U.S. President Barack Obama, says Ravi Agrawal.
updated 10:47 AM EDT, Tue April 29, 2014
Sitting cross-legged at her office desk, Abhina Aher expounds on what it means to be trapped in the wrong body.