From a banquet at the crafts museum to 100 luxury cars, India is laying out the red carpet for dignitaries from 54 African countries at the India-Africa Forum Summit. However, keeping in mind Indian and African sensitivities, there will be no beef or pork for the banquet to be hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday.
In fact, the menu at the dinner for African trade ministers, hosted by Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman last Friday, was a glimpse of things to come: two non-vegetarian dishes — fish (narial bata betki paturi) and chicken chettinad — and a range of vegetarian fare, including Gujarati kadi.
Besides, the 40 African leaders and at least two dozen ministers who are expected to attend the PM’s banquet will be ferried in new luxury cars, including Mercedes Benz and Toyota Hybrid, and accommodated in 10 five-star hotels.
Ahead of the summit, senior officials will meet on October 26 followed by ministers the next day before the main event starts on October 29. And while airport authorities have been asked to make space for at least 15 private jets used by African leaders, security officials have been told to be “polite” and not make any remarks or actions that may offend the visiting delegates from Africa.
On Sunday, South Block also unveiled an India-Africa friendship rose garden at Chanakyapuri, in association with the New Delhi Municipal Council. “The summit will be over, but the fragrance will remain… we wanted a landmark dedicated to the India-Africa summit,” an official said.
The bond of friendship, which South Block hopes to cement, will include personalised photographs of top delegates from Africa with PM Modi.
On Friday, Modi spent half-an-hour clicking individual pictures with each of the African editors who met him. There will also be a corner for Bollywood, which is popular in Africa, and another at the Indira Gandhi stadium for Nollywood, Nigeria’s film industry.
With 700 journalists covering the events and over 2,000 delegates, South Block has also roped in officials from the armed forces to manage logistics. Indian diplomats have also been summoned from across the globe — some have come all the way from Peru and Geneva.
A hunt is also on to tag the summit with an interesting acronym — one of them floated at the highest levels is ABBA, Africa for Bharat, Bharat for Africa. However, the PM is yet to take a call on this.
And, since the PM is so active on Twitter, the summit venue will have a “Twitter Tree” with live Twitter feed on the India-Africa forum summit shown on a screen in the shape of a blue and white tree.