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Rediff.com  » News » Prez Pranab returns after 'emotional' visit to Mauritius

Prez Pranab returns after 'emotional' visit to Mauritius

Last updated on: March 13, 2013 22:27 IST

President Pranab Mukherjee is deeply satisfied with his three-day visit to Mauritius, Saisuresh Sivaswamy reports.

President Pranab Mukherjee returned to New Delhi on Wednesday night after a 3-day visit to Mauritius.

In his onboard media briefing on the conclusion of his three-day visit to Mauritius, President Pranab Mukherjee said “China was showing a lot of interest in Africa and naturally in Mauritius too”.

He added that he had assured the island nation’s leadership that India will extend assistance to it wherever possible, like in economics and trade and other areas.

Mukherjee, to a query from rediff.com, however said that China was not discussed in his various meetings with the Mauritian leadership.

In bilateral discussions we do not discuss other nations unless there was a major reason for both sides to do so, which was not the case, he stated.

President Pranab had a hectic last day of engagements that saw him engage with the citizenry of the island nation from across various strata

The morning started with the conferment of the honorary degree of doctor of civil law by the University of Mauritius in the presence of students and academics.

After that, he paid a brief visit to the Mahatma Gandhi Institute before proceeding to the Ganga Talao, and wound up his visit with a reception at the Grand Bois marketplace.

On board the Air India One aircraft flying him back to India, President Mukherjee described his reception at the Mauritian airport on Monday afternoon as an “emotional” one as the entire Cabinet of the country had turned up to receive him.

Corroborating High Commissioner TP Seetharam’s statement on Tuesday night of the reception accorded to him, the President said there have been many presidential visits to the country before, and such visits are nothing new. But with the reception on Monday, the people of Mauritius “have shown that they harbour good feelings for India”.

Seetharam also said that the Mauritian government had nominated different ministers to accompany the President on various legs of his visit. Mukherjee said he was thus able to talk to many ministers aside from the formal sessions, which he described as “a new way of interaction”.

Venu Rajamony, the President’s press secretary, said the visit to the Mahatma Gandhi Institute was a different experience, with people lining up the road on both sides in wait. There was also Gandhi’s favourite bhajan, Vaishanava Janato, playing during the visit, and although it was a brief visit, it was memorable.

Mukherjee, in his onboard interaction with the media, also described his visit to the Aapravasi ghat -- where some 450,000 Indian indentured labourers were brought to Mauritius over a period of time, before being assigned to the sugarcane plantations -- on Tuesday, as a “moving experience as the place resonates with the indomitable spirit of Indians who landed there, struggled against all odds and triumphed”.

Mauritius has preserved the site to remind itself of its past, and today Aapravasi ghat has been designated as a world heritage site.

But the civic reception according to him on Wednesday, his last official assignment before emplaning for home, was special, as it gave him an opportunity to meet with the rural people of Mauritius who Prime Minister Naveenchandra Ramgoolam described as the soul of his nation, Mukherjee said.

Minister of State for Home RPN Singh, minister-in-waiting for the presidential visit to Mauritius, said the “kind of enthusiasm they showed for the President of India, it was sheer magic, he gave an extempore speech relating to the people who were there.” There were around 3000-5000 people, which was huge in Mauritius, Singh said. “The President was also moved by the spontaneous enthusiasm he received.”

The President delivered two important speeches on Wednesday, one at his conferment with the honorary degree and another at the civic reception. In both he touched upon the warmth and friendliness shown by the people of Mauritius.

At the university he paid tribute to the country’s investment in education which continues to reap rich dividends for it and was “one of the reasons for its praiseworthy level of development we see in Mauritius today”.

At his civic reception Mukherjee said he was “deeply satisfied” with the outcome of his meetings with the distinguished leadership of Mauritius and had no doubt that the evolving road map will take the bilateral relations to new heights.

Minister of State for Home RPN Singh described the presidential visit “as an amazing experience for me also.”

“I come from eastern Uttar Pradesh, I met people in the government who were from UP and Bihar. While I was at Independence Day celebrations on Tuesday, the minister on my left, his forefathers had come from Ghazipur which is close to where I live. And the minister to my right, he was from Bihar. I speak Bhojpuri, we could understand what we were saying. It was actually like being at home and I had never left the shores of India.”

Image: President Pranab Mukherjee with the MoS for home, RPN Singh, the minister-in-waiting for the Mauritius trip, at the onboard press conference on the return journey.

Credit: Saisuresh Sivaswamy/Rediff.com

Saisuresh Sivaswamy On board the President's aircraft