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Modi, leader of BJP, takes office as 15th India prime minister


Narendra Modi, leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, was sworn in Monday as India's 15th prime minister, leading a government that faces a major challenge to jumpstart the country's slowing economy.

Modi, 63, the former chief minister of Gujarat State, came to power after BJP won a landslide victory in the latest general election. Nearly 4,000 guests, including outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and government leaders from Pakistan and other neighboring countries, attended the oath-taking ceremony held at the presidential palace.

The BJP vowed during the campaign to revitalize India's anemic economy, which has been growing 4 percent, down from more than 9 percent in 2010-2011.

Apart from revamping the economy, Modi also faces a host of foreign policy issues with neighboring countries as well as territorial disputes with Pakistan and China.

Modi invited Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other leaders of the South Asian and Indian Ocean region to his swearing-in ceremony and he is scheduled to meet with Sharif on Tuesday for a one-on-one summit.

Sharif is the first Pakistani head of government to attend the oath-taking ceremony of an Indian prime minister.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence in 1947.

Relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbors have been strained over the disputed territory of Kashmir as well as the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

The new Indian Cabinet under Modi was also sworn in Monday. Modi is expected to announce the assignments of government portfolios at a later date.

Born in 1950, Modi is the first Indian prime minister born after independence from Britain in 1947.

Modi's BJP won 282 seats in the 545-member lower house of parliament in a general election held in April and May, snatching power from the Congress party.

Modi was asked by President Pranab Mukherjee to form a new government on May 20 after he was unanimously elected as BJP parliamentary leader.