Agra, Feb 20 (PTI) The enduring monument of love here hada unique set of visitors -- foreign ministers and heads ofdelegations of 40 Least Developed Countries (LDC), who were inIndia for a development conference.
Resorting to ''Taj diplomacy'', Ministry of ExternalAffairs chartered a special flight to fulfil the desire of thedelegates to admire the timeless beauty of the marblemonument.
As many as 98 delegates, including foreign ministers,Permanent Representatives of LDC countries and seniordiplomats hopped onto the special Air India flight thatbrought them here yesterday to savour the luminous glory ofthe Taj Mahal.The weather was perfect -- bright sunshine and coolbreeze -- as the special visitors wandered around clickingpictures and admiring the timeless beauty, which wasunfortunately out of bounds for tourists.
"It''s absolutely beautiful. Amazing," was all Bhutan''sForeign Minister Khandu Wangchuk had to say keeping a fixedgaze on the Taj. It was his first visit to Agra, despitehaving visited New Delhi a couple of times.
A Ethiopian diplomat posted in New York wondered how themonument, immensely popular with tourists, was kept clean.
"We also have a couple of big mosques in Ethiopia. We canlearn from India on their upkeep," he said.
Newly-appointed Nepalese Minister Gangalal Tuladharappeared to have been bowled over by the architecture.
He was seen observing the monument closely and alsogetting himself photographed at various locations.
For many, like the Foreign Minister of Sierra LeoneJoseph Dauda or Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of SudanKamal Hassan Ali, it was a first visit to India and they werevisibly pleased at the special gesture made by India tofacilitate their visit to the Taj.
This was the first time visiting ministers in such largenumbers were taken to Agra to see the 17th century monument tolove. The entire contingent headed to Agra an hour after thethe end of the two-day ministerial conference of LDCsyesterday afternoon.
Foreign Minister of Turkey Ahmet Davutoglu and members ofhis delegation flew in here separately an hour before thevisit of the LDC representatives and went around the Taj.
At the conference, India announced setting up of aspecial fund of USD 5 million and a USD 500-million creditline for developmental projects in the 48 LDCs.
It also announced five scholarships to each of the 48 LDCcountries. Since 2003, India has had made a cumulativefinancial assistance of USD 35 billion, including line ofcredit, private and public investments in the LDC countries.Apart from LDCs, Finland, Australia, Slovenia, China,Hungary, Croatia, Georgia, European Union, the US, Germany andHungary also attended the meeting as observers.
The objective of the conference was to provide inputs tothe 4th UN-LDC Conference to be held in Istanbul in May thisyear, which is expecting an ambitious outcome, one which wouldallow at least 50 per cent of the countries to reach thethreshold of graduation by 2020.
Since the UN established the LDC as a separate categoryof nations in 1971, just three countries have graduated fromthe LDC to the grouping of developing countries -- Botswana,Cape Verde and Maldives.