As heads of state from SAARC nations descended on the capital to attend Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony on Monday, luxury hotels turned fortresses as they rolled out the red carpets. From special menus and musical tributes, entire floors were booked as they played host to visiting heads of state.
The Hotel Taj Mansingh began preparations for Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif’s visit as soon as the venue was confirmed. Upon his arrival, a sitarist played classical tunes in the hotel lobby. Pakistani foreign office personnel filled the lobby alongside security personnel from the Pakistan High Commission and the Delhi Police.
Outside, Rapid Action Force guarded the front and back gates of the hotel and lined its walls. However, guests continued to arrive and faced no security hassle. Bollywood actor Salman Khan arrived at the hotel along with his parents and brother Sohail Khan also arrived at the hotel in the afternoon. The family too had come to attend the swearing-in ceremony.
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Interim President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, Sunil Gavaskar was also present at the hotel. Hotel staff said lunch for the Pakistani delegation was sent from the hotel’s famous Varq restaurant. “He enjoyed a variety of Indian dishes that were sent up to his room,” they said.
The Oberoi, on Dr Zakir Hussain Marg, welcomed Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. The Oberoi was swarming with security personnel since early morning. The hotel staff said since Karzai always stayed there when in Delhi, they were well aware of his food and stay preferences. A crowd of students and onlookers had also collected from 11 am, to get a glimpse of the Afghan President.
Maldives President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa were at the Taj Palace Hotel in Chanakyapuri. The security detail in the hotel, for the protection of both leaders, was most apparent in the lobby — where apart from the plainclothes police officers, police commandos kept a watchful eye.
At the Hotel ITC Maurya, Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala is staying with his 13 member delegation, including his nephew, Shashank Koirala and niece, Sujata Koirala. Tight security was put in place at the Chanakyapuri hotel, with a PCR van stationed at every gate. A battery of traffic policemen and Delhi Police personnel as well as armed paramilitary troops guarded the area.
At 11.45 am, Koirala’s convoy arrived at the hotel where they were welcomed by officials and hotel staff. The entire 16th floor was booked for the Nepalese leaders and their delegation, with scores of police and hotel security guards manning the VVIP gates.
On his second visit to India, Bhutan PM Tshering Tobgay and a small delegation was put up at the Hotel leela Palace in Chanakyapuri.