NEW DELHI: The first major guest for the India Africa Forum Summit arrived in Delhi in royal style. The King of Morocco Mohammed VI arrived in his own plane at Indira Gandhi international airport on Sunday morning, accompanied by a delegation of 300 members.
This is the third official trip of the Moroccan King to India. In fact, he will be perhaps one of the few Africa heads of state who would have attended India's two biggest diplomatic events. As a crown prince, he had participated in the 1983 Non-Aligned Summit and will again be taking part in yet another mammoth diplomatic gathering for the third India-Africa forum summit.
At the airport, the Moroccan King was received by the minister of state for agriculture Sanjeev Balyan. All African leaders - around 40 - will be greeted at the airport by Prime Minister's special envoys who had made the trip to the continent to give the personal invitation.
Sources confirmed that Moroccan King is escorted a delegation of 300 members, which is probably the biggest of any of the African heads of states.
The Moroccan delegation has apparently booked the entire Leela Palace hotel for the duration of their one-week stay.
It is believed that the Moroccan delegation have flown in their own furniture, including the royal bed, for the sound sleep of the King.
While the summit opens formally on Monday with the senior official's meeting, the plenary meeting of to be attended by all the heads of states and governments, will be on October 29. Majority of the African leaders will be arriving in Delhi a day before, on October 28.
Besides the Moroccan king, the other African royalty to attend the summit will be the King of Swaziland Mswati III.
Incidentally, when the Sultan of Brunei visited India for the Asean-India commemorative summit in 2012, he also landed with a big delegation at the five-star Maurya Sheraton. The Brunei delegation hired 15 Mercedes-Benz cars to ferry royal family members to shopping destinations in Delhi and Gurgaon.
Morocco has three-fourths of the world's reserves for phosphate, which is an irreplaceable element of modern agriculture - and India is one of its biggest markets.
This highly critical commodity had even led India to review its earlier recognition of Western Sahara, which is claimed by Morocco, and take a more neutral position. India had first recognised Western Sahara in 1985 for ideological reasons, but then pragmatically withdrew its recognition in 2000.
In 2014, bilateral trade between India and Morocco stood at $1.35 billion, with the balance of trade in favour of the North African nation.