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China may lead in hard diplomacy but India wins Rwandan hearts with its food

By Shubham

Kigali, July 24: India might still remain eclipsed by China's jet-speed development initiatives in Africa, but its soft power wins hearts of many and the African continent is no exception.

Take for example, Rwanda. The tiny East Asian country is in news now because of the visits of two leading statesmen - China's Xi Jinping and India's Narendra Modi - ahead of the BRICS summit in South Africa. Both the leading economies have focussed on Rwanda which is one of the fastest developing economies of Africa today.

China may lead in hard diplomacy but India wins Rwandan hearts with its food

While China attracted more headlines owing to its huge commitments to Africa and Rwanda, India was highlighted because of culinary reasons.

According to a report in Rwanda's The New Times, "the spicy, intensely colourful world of Indian food found an ever-increasing fan base in Rwanda."

In many parts of capital Kigali, either there exists an Indian restaurant or an eatery that offers Indian food, the report said, conceding that Indian cuisine has a cultural impact.

The report gave the instance of Khana Khazana restaurant in Kigali which is in operation since April 2009. It can accommodate 120 people in an open-air diner and specialises in authentic Indian vegetarian and non-vegetarian cuisine.

"Two years ago, its villa and boutique hotel, located in the heart of the upmarket Nyarutarama area, was also opened. It is here that avid and regular customers of this place remain awed at the consistency of the quality of the food year in and year out; a rare feat to manage and achieve," the report added.

The owner of the restaurant Raviraja Poojary invested half a billion Rwanda Francs (1 Rwanda Franc is 0.079 INR) to set up the unit after he was convinced by a friend that Rwanda is a good country to do business. He heard about how the people of Rwanda respected foreigners and the country made fast economic progress and that it is known for its cleanliness, good weather and natural beauty.

His friend was already in Rwanda, running an African eatery. He found two Indian chefs looking for jobs. He employed both and started offering Indian food. He later decided to open an Indian one as well since there were not many serving authentic Indian dishes and invited Poojary to Kigali and the two started Khana Khazana in Kigali's Kiyovu area.

It was not easy in the beginning but tried hard to familiarise the local people with Indian food and now the business is flourishing and is often regarded as the best in Kigali, the report said.

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