Bhangra beats welcome Hollande

Bhangra beats welcome Hollande

When Francois Hollande flew into Chandigarh on a breezy Sunday afternoon to the beats of bhangra, the French President was not visiting just another Indian town, but celebrating a fellow countryman’s immense contribution to Chandigarh.

This is the only city outside France that Swiss-born French architect Le Corbusier designed, though he had visualised several buildings across the world. Chandigarh is also one of the three cities, others being Puducherry and Nagpur, that has been selected by France for collaboration in developing it as a smart city.

Hollande was received warmly at the Chandigarh Air Force airport by Punjab and Haryana Governor Kaptan Singh Solanki, as bhangra dancers gave him a traditional welcome. The city was under a thick blanket of security. If rock garden was designed by Nek Chand, both capitol complex and government museum were designed by Le Corbusier.

He was driven around the city’s landmarks like rock garden, capitol complex and  government museum and art gallery before holding meetings with business honchos in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Hollande’s Chandigarh visit, before his arrival in Delhi, where he will be the chief guest for Republic Day parade, is part of Modi’s insistence on pitching states to the foreign head of states.

“France has an umbilical chord with Chandigarh,” Modi said. Hollande described the city as a cradle of humanity.

Usually, the heads of states land in Delhi before they move to other cities. In a departure from protocol, Xi Jinping had landed in Ahmedabad before reaching Delhi with the images of  Modi and the Chinese President tacking a stroll in Sabarmati Ashram splashed across media.

While Ahmedabad was chosen for its connection with China through Buddhism, Chandigarh has the Corbusier connection as well as France’s business plans, including a Memorandum of Understanding on developing the architect's “well-planned” city as a smart city.

The Modi government has selected Chandigarh among 100 cities to be developed as smart cities. After the less than six-hour long stay in the city, Hollande and Modi left for Delhi in the evening in separate planes.

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