India-Africa summit: Spouses to accompany 20 African leaders

New Delhi, Oct 26 (IANS) Leaders of 20 of the 54 African countries will be accompanied by their spouses at the third India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) that got underway here on Monday.

“There are approximately 20 spouses accompanying the (African countries’) leaders here,” Syed Akbaruddin, additional secretary in the external affairs ministry and the IAFS chief coordinator, said at a media briefing.

“We have chalked out a very interesting programme for them,” he said, adding Ambassador to Unesco Ruchira Kamboj has been called back for the purpose.

“What she has chalked out for them is a mix of Indian traditional, cultural exposure to monuments as well as a modern fashion show which will highlight the handlooms of Varanasi. This is being choreographed by Sunil Sethi.”

Apart from that, Akbaruddin said there will be two master chefs “who will be cooking and demonstrating for the spouses as to how perhaps they can make very delicious Indian food in a very short time”.

“It is taste as well as time that will be a factor when these chefs demonstrate this,” he said, adding that it this would take place at the Leela Hotel.

“Apart from that there is a very interesting programme that India is promoting. These are called the solar grandmothers,” he said.

These women are being trained on harnessing solar energy at Tilonia in Rajasthan at an organisation called Barefoot College run by Sanjit “Bunker” Roy.

“Bunker Roy is bringing some of those who are from Africa, from the places some of where these spouses are to interact with them and to share their experiences,” said Akbaruddin.

“This is a unique programme where women above 35 years of age are brought to India. This endeavour has been extremely successful where about 300-plus women from various parts of Africa came and went back. They have used solar energy for lighting up more than 15,000 villages.”

The IAFS formally got underway on Monday with a meeting between senior officials of India and the African countries.

On Tuesday, a ministerial meeting will be held between the foreign ministers of India and the African countries. This will be followed by bilateral meetings between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her counterparts.

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