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Modi & his sweet moments with mother ‘touch’ Sharif & mother

Narendra Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (right) greet each other after the swearing-in at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Monday. Pictures by Rajesh Kumar

New Delhi, May 26: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is yet to announce the portfolios for the ministers sworn in today but summoned a post-dinner meeting of his council apparently to finalise who gets what office.

Modi had deferred a decision on portfolio allocation to attend the dinner for the Prime Ministers and Presidents of the Saarc countries and Mauritius.

Modi is scheduled to meet Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at 9am tomorrow. Sushma Swaraj, tipped to become external affairs minister, is likely to take charge at 8am and attend the meeting.

She will also be in the other bilateral meetings, scheduled to end by 2pm.

Modi shakes hands with Karzai after the swearing-in

Modi tweeted that his pictures with his mother offering him sweets after he went to seek her blessings ahead of his swearing-in touched Sharif and his mother too.

“Nawaz Sharif ji told me that he stays in Islamabad but goes to meet his mother once in a week. This time when he was eating with his mother he saw visuals on TV of my mother offering me sweets,” Modi tweeted.

In another tweet, he said: “The visuals touched both Nawaz Sharif ji & his mother. He told me that after seeing the visuals his mother got very emotional.”

Obama at the White House on his return from Afghanistan on Monday. (AFP)

Earlier, NDTV had quoted Sharif as saying: “This is the same BJP’s Prime Minister Vajpayee for whom I have the greatest of respect. I intend taking up threads from where Vajpayee and I left off in 1999.”

The importance of the Saarc heads’ dinner rose several notches after it became known that Afghan President Hamid Karzai had kept his date in India while refusing to meet US President Barack Obama in Kabul.

Obama had landed at the Bagram base near the Afghan capital on a surprise visit after flying all night from Washington DC. Karzai refused to visit Bagram and Obama refused to visit Karzai’s palace in downtown Kabul.

Obama’s visit to Bagram signals the most complex strategic challenge that the Modi government is set to run into in the short term.

“I’m here on a single mission, and that is to thank you for your extraordinary service,” Obama told US troops and promised that “America’s war in Afghanistan will come to a responsible end”.

Karzai has blamed the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba for the attack on the Indian consulate in Herat last week. Modi and Karzai will meet tomorrow.

The staff of most of the new ministers in the Modi council said the ministers were likely to take charge tomorrow morning.

In leaks of a list that have been mailed or texted to journalists, Arun Jaitley emerges as next only to Modi in the cabinet. The list, which has not been confirmed by the BJP or the government, shows him as finance minister with additional charge of defence and corporate affairs.

Replays of the list on television immediately drew contrary responses from the strategic community.

Brigadier (retired) Gurmeet Kanwal, who headed the army-backed Centre for Land Warfare Studies, tweeted: “Jaitley as RM (Raksha Mantri) FM (Finance Minister): There will b better synergy in defence procurements, but can 1 man do justice to 2 full time jobs? I have serious doubts.”

The former Western Army Commander, Lt Gen. H.S. Panag, found “Combo of Finance and Defence augurs well for both!”

The formulation also suggests that Rao Inderjit Singh, sworn in as a minister of state, may be made the junior minister for defence, an office he held in the UPA I government. Singh left the Congress and joined the BJP last year.