NEW DELHI: Congress president Sonia Gandhi did not attend the luncheon meeting hosted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in honour of the visiting Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari at the former’s official residence, 7 Race Course Road on Sunday.
According to sources, Sonia had written a letter of regret to Zardari saying that she was unwell to attend the meeting. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee also did not attend the meeting, as he had a prior engagement. The lunch hosted at 7-RCR had a select invitee list.
From the Indian side, it included Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, Defence Minister A K Antony, Home Minister P Chidambaram, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, BJP leaders L K Advani and Sushma Swaraj, National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon and Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai.
Besides the Zardaris, the Pakistani invitee list included Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Jaleel Abbas Jilani and high commissioner Shahid Malik.
Before the lunch, the Prime Minister’s Office had tweeted with a picture of a long table as it awaited the dignitaries.
The silver cutlery had been placed carefully on the ivory coloured table cloth, with the table enlivened with yellow flower arrangements.
The menu was extensively soured from the best of regional cuisines. For the first course, there was melon and mint soup, followed by appetisers like pakoras of sarson ka phool and gosht barra kebabs. Then, there were series of tempting dishes like kareli dal mutton, sikandri raan, malai palak, tori bhuji and kacchi gosht biryani.
For dessert, there was gur ka sandesh, phirni, blueberry mousse and fresh fruit salad.
According to sources, Rahul and Bilawal, who were seated next to each other, were seen chatting several times. Similarly, Rahman Malik and his Indian counterpart Chidambaram also had a chat during the lunch.