Islanders coming for Jaipur summit to be taken for Taj tour

New Delhi, Aug 15 (IANS) The meeting of the Forum for India Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) was first planned to be held in a coastal state in India, as mentioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his address at the first FIPIC summit in Suva, Fiji last year.

But the delegates from 14 nations which are surrounded by ocean did not necessarily want to be near the water. They have a surfeit of it back home.

When Indian officials suggested Jaipur as a location for the summit on August 21, the delegates, who include three presidents, one vice president, six prime ministers, one deputy prime minister, two ministers and a special envoy representing their governments, are believed to have enthusiastically agreed.

To make their visit even more interesting, the officials then threw in a visit to the beauteous Taj Mahal.

The Pacific Island nation leaders arrive in New Delhi on August 18 and 19. On August 19, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will meet them and host a welcome dinner.

On August 20, a ceremonial welcome will be held in the morning for the leaders at Rashtrapati Bhavan, during which they will meet President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Vice President Hamid Ansari and also Sushma Swaraj, according to the itinerary detailed by Anil Wadhwa, Secretary (East) in the ministry of external affairs here.

The leaders are scheduled to then proceed to Agra to view the Taj Mahal, the 17th century marbled wonder built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, in memory of his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal.

The monument, listed as one of the wonders of the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site, attracts 7 to 8 million visitors annually, with more than 800,000 overseas visitors coming to Agra.

Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma will be at Agra to welcome the dignitaries and take them around.

Late in the afternoon, they will be back in Delhi to attend a CII meeting on possibilities of enhancing trade during which Coal Minister Piyush Goyal will be present.

On August 21, the day of the summit, the leaders will proceed to Jaipur. They will do a spot of sight-seeing at the Amer Palace Fort, 11 km from Jaipur.

Later, they will attend an interactive session being organised by the Indian Council for World Affairs, and attend a lunch, during which Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh will be present.

The summit is to be held in the evening, to be followed by a banquet.

The leaders return to Delhi on August 22 noon and depart for their respective countries, Wadhwa said.

The 14 nations attending the summit are Cook Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Nauru, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Niue, Palau, Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

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