Prez to Host 'Private Dinner' for SAARC Leaders

President Pranab Mukherjee will host a 'private dinner' for the SAARC leaders and their representatives, who have been especially invited for the swearing-in of Narendra Modi as country's 14th Prime Minister.

The visiting VVIPs include Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Prime Ministers of Bhutan and Nepal Tshering Tobgay and Sushil Koirala and Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

Speaker Shirin Chaudhury will represent Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as she will be travelling to Japan.

Besides the SAARC nations, Mauritian Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam will also attend the swearing-in ceremony.

The dinner, being hosted at 'Grey Drawing Room', will be attended by the new Prime Minister and his ministerial team.

The dishes will be from various parts of the country including 'kela methi nu shaak' from Gujarat in the main course with a 'paan' at the end.

The dishes to be served in the main course to the foreign dignitaries include 'Prawns Sukka' or 'Chicken chettinad' from Tamil Nadu, Birbali Kofta curry (Mughlai), Jaipuri Bhindi (Rajasthan), Dal makhani (Punjab) and Potol Dorma (a dish from West Bengal).

In the Gujarati dish kela methi nu shaak, the bitterness of the methi is complemented by the sweetness of bananas.

After the swearing-in, refreshments will be provided to visitors where six snacks, including "dhokla" - a Gujarati vegetarian food, will be provided.

Asked whether "dhokla" was being served keeping in mind the fact that the new Prime Minister is from Gujarat, Omita Paul, Secretary to President Pranab Mukherjee, said in a lighter vein, "No, no, it is a voluntary action."

Paul said foreign VVIPs will be using the 'Guest Wing' for an hour or so but none of them will stay overnight at the President's House.

The newly refurbished 'Guest Wing' of the Rashtrapati Bhavan was thrown open earlier this year after two decades and Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and his Queen were the first guests to stay there.

The VVIPs will be staying in these brightly decked up refurbished suites tomorrow in the sprawling Presidential Estate to get a taste of the country's fabled 'Atithi Devo Bhava' (Guest is God) culture.

At Mukherjee's special initiative, the old glory of Rashtrapati Bhavan, which was formally inaugurated in 1931, was restored.

The VVIP suites are adorned with heavy panelling of exquisite wood, beautiful drapes and classic wall paintings, all brought out from the stores of the Presidential mansion.

The then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who visited Delhi in 1986, was among the last of foreign dignitaries to stay in the 'Guest Wing'.

Names drawn from rivers such as Brahmaputra and Kaveri and mountain ranges like Vindhya and Shivalik have been used to identify the 14-room wing, housing VVIP and VIP suites, deluxe rooms, rooms for ADCs and standard rooms.

The two most elite suites have been named 'Nalanda' and 'Dwarka'.

The officials said the President himself chose the names for the rooms.

Catering to the needs of modern-day diplomatic missions, a special enclosure to function as business centre and a place for communications gadgetry has also been created.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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