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Belgium to honour Sonia Gandhi

india Updated: Nov 11, 2006 15:21 IST
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Visiting Congress president Sonia Gandhi will be honoured by the Belgium government with Order of Leopold, its second highest civilian award, and also an honorary doctorate by Brussels University.

Gandhi, here to inaugurate an Indian cultural exhibition organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), is to receive both the awards on Saturday. The honorary doctorate will be conferred by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB - Brussels University).

Former US president Dwight Eisenhower was a recipient of the Order of Leopold, one of the three Belgian national honorary orders - named in honour of King Léopold II, the first king of Belgium. It is reserved for the most important Belgian nationals and also conferred on distinguished foreigners who have contributed in some way to the Belgian military, civil society or state.

King Albert II alone can grant the awards.

Apart from Eisenhower, Yugoslav communist leader Josip Broz Tito had also received the award.

According to India's ambassador to Belgium Dipak Chatterjee, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson will be conferred a doctorate by Brussels University for her contribution to constructive nationalism. Former South African president Nelson Mandela was a recipient of this honour.

Gandhi is here to inaugurate an exhibition, 'Tejas', touted as the centrepiece of a four-month India cultural festival in Brussels organised by ICCR in collaboration with the ministry of culture.

On Friday, Gandhi paid tribute to the known and unknown Indian Soldiers of World War I at Meenenpoorte (Menin Gate) Memorial in Ypres. Gandhi is also expected to meet the Belgian Royal couple King Albert II and his consort, Princess Donna Paola Ruffo di Calabria.

The India festival, the first such cultural extravaganza held here after a gap of 15 years, was inaugurated by Queen Paola of Belgium in October. The last festival of India was held in Germany in 1991.

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