President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan were hosted by President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday night, along with a large number of VVIPs.
Sources said that extra chairs and tables had to be arranged as the list of invitees swelled beyond 90, even though some senior ministers could not attend the event.
“The Indian side had more than 70 people easily. And at least 22 Chinese attended the banquet,” said an official. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the star of the event as he interacted easily with the guests. President Xi too was seen in a lighter mood, chit chatting with the guests.
Among the top ministers, Arun Jaitley (finance) and Rajnath Singh (home) could not attend the event. “Singh is not in the country and Jaitley had informed us earlier that he would have to skip it due to health considerations,” said a Rashtrapati Bhavan official.
The ministers who did attend the event included foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, human resource development minister Smriti Irani, tourism minister Sripad Naik and information and broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar. Sources said there were 11 constitutional position holders among the officials from the Indian side.
CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury topped the list of non-officials. He sat next to foreign secretary Sujata Singh. The menu contained both vegetarian and non-vegetarian items picked from different parts of the country. “The sumptuous meals reflected the cultural diversity of India,” said an official.