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New Delhi – Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invitation to Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif to attend his May 26th swearing-in ceremony is widely welcomed by Indian Muslims as a step toward boosting thorny bilateral ties.

“It is good that both leaders have initiated the steps towards peace. It would benefit people of both countries,” Mufti Mohammed Mukaram, head imam of Fatehpuri Masjid in Delhi, told Khabar South Asia. “Dialogue is the only way forward and violence is not an option.”

Muslims hope to see more progress in this area, he said. “Everyone is hoping that both governments would initiate steps which would improve the relations between both countries.”

Modi invited leaders of Pakistan and other South Asian neighbors to the New Delhi ceremony, which was followed by one-on-one bilateral meetings with Modi, described by the Indian government as substantial.

Next Steps

President of the Imam Council of India, Maqsood ul Hassan Qasmi, told Khabar that Modi’s invitation to Sharif “gave a jolt to India-Pak relations” and “ultimately helps improve people-to-people contact.”

“It is very important for the Indian government to improve relations with the neighbouring countries,” Qasmi said. “I am sure now both the prime ministers would take some concrete steps to improve relations.”

He added Muslims expect Modi to follow the footsteps of former PM and BJP member Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who in 2002, oversaw “many historic events” in India-Pakistan ties.

“Neither leader [Modi and Sharif] should allow extremists to jeopardise the talks,” Qasmi added.

Maulana Mahmood Madani, a leading Islamic scholar and General Secretary of Jamait Ulema-e-Hind (JUH), told Khabar the picture would become clearer in coming months and that Muslims are hopeful something good will come from the talks.

For some Muslim youth, the meeting was a welcome surprise.

“It was not expected that PM Modi would invite the Pakistani Prime Minister to the swearing-in function, as before elections, he had made anti-Pakistani speeches,” Mohammed Abuqab, a University Grants Commission research scholar in New Delhi, told Khabar. “It is great that he has changed his stand. Inviting Pakistan is a great and appreciable step.”

Jamia Hamdard University postgraduate student Mohammed Muntazir said: “Both countries should understand the fact that all the issues can be resolved through a proper dialogue. Muslims are optimistic [Modi] would bring a positive change in relations with not only Pakistan, but also with other countries.”

BJP supporters dance in front of a Narendra Modi billboard