Modi sworn in as India's PM at ceremony attended by South Asian leaders

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Mr Narendra Modi was sworn in Monday as India's 15th prime minister at an inauguration ceremony in the capital New Delhi attended by regional leaders.

"I, Narendra Damodardas Modi, swear in the name of God that I will maintain the integrity of India," Mr Modi said in Hindi at the ceremony.

"I will work without fear, anger or hatred and will do justice to all as per the codes of the Constitution."

Mr Modi promised to forge a "strong and inclusive" India in a message soon after being sworn in, 10 days after his right-wing party won the first electoral majority in three decades.

The 63-year-old former tea boy took the oath of office at a lavish ceremony conducted by India's President Pranab Mukherjee.

The leader of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has a reputation as a hardline Hindu nationalist. But in a statement released as he took the oath, he promised to govern for all of India's 1.25 billion people.

"As we devote ourselves to take India's development journey to newer heights, we seek your support, blessings and active participation," Mr Modi said in the statement on the prime minister's website.

"Together we will script a glorious future for India," he added.

"Let us together dream of a strong, developed and inclusive India that actively engages with the global community to strengthen the cause of world peace and development."

After Mr Modi took the oath of office, senior BJP figures who have been appointed to his cabinet were sworn into office.

Although their exact portfolios were not announced, they included Mrs Sushma Swaraj who is expected to become foreign minister and Mr Arun Jaitley, tipped to be finance minister.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghan President Hamid Karzai were among the regional leaders who attended the ceremony outside the Indian president's official residence in New Delhi.

In an interview shortly before the inauguration, Mr Sharif said Mr Modi's arrival in power represented "a great opportunity" for the nuclear-armed rivals to forge a new era in their troubled relationship.

"This is a chance to reach out to each other. Both governments have a strong mandate," Mr Sharif told India's NDTV network, according to a transcript provided by the Pakistan High Commission.

"Both countries should rid the region of instability and security that has plagued us for decades," he added.

The invitation to Sharif was seen as a significant olive branch to India's Muslim neighbour and it marks the first time that a leader from either country has attended his counterpart's inauguration since independence in 1947.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars and bilateral ties broke down after the 2008 attacks by Pakistani gunmen in Mumbai in which 166 people were killed.