New Delhi, Feb 17 (IANS) With the Taj Mahal an enduring attraction for visitors to India, the external affairs ministry has chartered a special flight to fly in 35-odd ministers from Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin American countries to Agra to savour the luminous glory of the marble monument by moonlight.
This is the first time visiting ministers in such large numbers will be taken to Agra to see the 17th century monument to love. Permanent Representatives and ambassadors of over 40 Least Developed Countries – called LDCs in diplomatic jargon – will also be accompanying them.
The entire contingent will head to Agra an hour after the the end of the two-day ministerial conference of LDCs Saturday afternoon. They will come back Saturday night after spending a couple of hours admiring the timeless beauty of the Taj Mahal.
The ‘Taj diplomacy’ is aimed at renewing the spirit of South-South solidarity and is also seen as part of calibrated charm offensive to garner support of the maximum number of countries for its claim for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council
Officials, however, deny any link with its bid for a permanent seat. “They all wanted to see the Taj, so we organised a chartered plane,” said an official, not wanting to be named.
External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna will inaugurate the India-LDC ministerial conference, the first of its kind being hosted by India, at which some 35 foreign ministers and ministers and 40 Permanent Representatives to the UN from the LDCs will be participating. The ministers are also expected to call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The conference, which will act as a precursor the fourth conference on LDCs in Istanbul, Turkey, May 9-13, is expected to come out with a Delhi Declaration outlining ambitious plans for spurring development of these countries.
India enjoys a multi-dimensional relationship with LDCs and has been in the forefront of assisting their development through generous lines of credit and other forms of assistance. Over the decades, the foreign direct investment (FDI) from India to LDC countries has increased dramatically, and is estimated to be around $35 billion.
India has provided 4.3 billion lines of credit to LCDs over the years.