[President of the Republic of Zimbabwe Robert Gabriel Mugabe being received by Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, on his arrival, in New Delhi on October 27, 2015.]
New Delhi: The plastic covers have not yet been removed from the carpets, paintings and sofas. The walls are freshly coated and sport the colours of India through puppets, papier-mache work, hangings and Bollywood posters. The Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium here is set for a momentous date with history as 54 top leaders or their high representatives from the African continent converge here on Thursday for their biggest engagement with India.
The 3rd India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS)is the largest international gathering of political leaders in India in over three decades with at least 40 of 54 countries being represented by heads of state or government, including two kings from Morocco and Swaziland.
All the big or political important countries in Africa - South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Sudan - are being represented by their heads of state.
While the ministerial meeting on Tuesday and officials’ meeting on Monday were held at what was originally the wrestling hall in the complex, the business exhibition has been organised at the velodrome. The summit meeting, to be led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will be held in the capacious main hall of the complex.
There is taste of India inside and outside the main hall. The battery-operated carts being used to ferry officials are painted in bright colours with their drivers sporting a Rajasthani headgear. The walls of the summit venues, including the media centre, carry pictorial depictons of India’s history and culture as also its progress in science, technology and infrastructure.
There are also pictorial depictions of Africa in its various colours - including its art, wildlife and modern architecture.
Attention has been given to the minutest detail under the overall supervision of India's Ministry of External Affairs. The main building has a medical room, a media control office and temporary offices of the ministry.
The lounge and dinning areas are big and elaborate. Officials said that the gymnasium has been converted into the dining area and can seat about 180 people at a time. The long dining table can easily seat 56 leaders. The lounge is long with a huge screen in the front and sofas spaced out on the floor. The walls of the lounge have string puppets, Moroccan lamps and specimens of Indian craft work.
The main hall looks spectacular with its formal sitting and special light effects. There are separate rooms for bilateral meetings. Self-operated information kiosks have been put up to guide visitors about the various arrangements.
The area leading to the lounge and dinning area has been lined with paintings depicting the history and culture of various regions of India. There are also posters of Bollywood movies including “Mera Naam Joker”, “Dewar”, “Mughle-e-Azam” and “Coolie”, as also of African movies.
A senior official said that leaders will be treated to a cultural presentation which will not only exhibit traditions of India and Africa “but interaction of an energetic India interacting with a resurgent Africa.”
It is the first time that an international summit of such scale is being held in India after the Non-Aligned Summit in 1983 with 101 countries participating. The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting the same year saw the participation of 42 countries.
(Prashant Sood can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)