Taj at sunset casts spell over African, Asian ministers

February 20th, 2011 - 3:46 pm ICT by IANS  

By Manish Chand
Agra, Feb 20 (IANS) The soft glow of the setting sun gently flickered over the Taj Mahal amid faint Quranic chants, evoking sighs of appreciation from hordes of visiting ministers and diplomats from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Majestic, sublime, beautiful, out of the world - lush adjectives and sonorous heart-filled adoration filled the evening air as they walked around, soaking in the ethereal beauty of the 17th century monument of love.

Clicking photos of the Taj from various angles, some of them posed at the famous bench in front of the mausoleum in white marble, where an entire procession of world leaders had been before, their pictures preserved for posterity.

Over 60-odd ministers and diplomats from the three continents could not have asked for a better finale to their short visit to India for the conference of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in New Delhi that ended Saturday afternoon.

Soon after the hardwire diplomacy that goes with drafting a joint statement for a conclave involving over 45 countries, they were flown in a special flight of the Indian, the national carrier, by India’s external affairs ministry to Agra to savour the spectacular view of the white marble monument by sunset. They had exclusive access to the interiors of the Taj Mahal, as tourists were barred for a few hours from entering the complex for security reasons.

The trip has left a trove of lasting memories.

“It was majestic, a beautiful experience. I will cherish it forever,” Joseph Bandabla Dauda, foreign minister of Sierra Leone, a West African country, told IANS.

Jean-Francis Regis Zinsou, Permanent Representative of Benin to the UN in New York, said: “Our trip could not have ended on a better note. It was lovely.”

For many of them, it was their first trip to India, and a view of the Taj made it all the more memorable. Sporting a vibrant colourful headgear and a traditional gown, Foreign Minister of Niger Aminata Djibrilla Maiga Toure posed for photographs, and was visibly thrilled by what she saw.

“It’s beautiful and it’s so moving,” she said.

Sikopo Macwani, a Zambian diplomat, was rhapsodic.

“I am going to tell all my friends about the visit to the Taj Mahal. It’s truly a monument of love. It’s like a wish come true,” she said.

The two-day conference India hosted for LDCs culminated in the Delhi Declaration, with a pledge from India to commit over $500 million for developmental transformation of some of the poorest countries in the world - called LDC in diplomatic jargon - who are showing signs of revival.

“The conference was a big success,” said Daniel Antonio, Permanent Representative of Mozambique to the UN in New York. The Taj trip definitely added to the charm, he added.

With soft diplomacy becoming equally important as real-politick, the trip to the Taj really worked wonders on the spirits of visiting diplomats and ministers. If more countries now vote for India’s candidature for a seat in the UN Security Council in the spirit of South-South solidarity, whenever the long-overdue reforms take place, the aesthete Mughal emperor Shaj Jahan should get some credit for building this poetry in stone for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal.

Four centuries later, the magic and the wonder still works for India.

(Manish Chand can be contacted at manish.c@ians.in)

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