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Rashtrapati Bhavan to host foreign guests

Published on 6 Dec. 2012 11:14 PM IST
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Foreign dignitaries could soon enjoy a rare honour-spending the night in Rashtrapati Bhavan. Nearly two decades after the practice fell into disuse, with a handful of exceptions, President Pranab Mukherjee has expressed the desire to refurbish the guest wing of Rashtrapati Bhavan to allow foreign dignitaries to stay at the sprawling estate rather than at a hotel as has been the case for several years.

Press secretary to the President Venu Rajamony confirmed the move, saying, “The President has expressed a desire to have foreign guests stay at Rashtrapati Bhavan. This is a long-term plan to refurbish the guest wing.’’

Mukherjee’s move to step up Indian hospitality by offering the President’s guest wing is in line with other countries like the US which hosts world leaders at Blair House or the UK where the monarchy’s guests stay at one of the official palaces.

The practice of guests staying at Rashtrapati Bhavan was discontinued in the 1980s following international trend of dignitaries staying at hotels with their delegations. This was due to the increasing size of the delegations, accessibility of the leader to visitors and security concerns.

But there have been a few exceptions. “The former King of Bhutan and the then president of Guyana have stayed at the President House during Dr A P J Abdul Kalam’s tenure. Former president Pratibha Patil had also hosted the present King of Bhutan,’’ recalled an official.

At present, the guest wing remains shut and is in dire need of repairs and refurbishment. It has an independent entrance and is equipped with a reception, visitors’ room and private rooms. One part of the wing was occasionally used by Patil for her visiting relatives.

Rashtrapati Bhavan is currently busy with the refurbishing of Durbar Hall which is expected to play host to the 9th Asean-India Commemorative summit from December 20-21.

The hall, which is usually used for state functions like the defence investiture ceremony and conferring of the Padma awards, was earlier called the Throne Room. It has a two-tonne chandelier hanging from a height of 33 metres.

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