Several world leaders skip Art of Living event

Those who cancelled their visit include Presidents of Nepal and Sri Lanka and former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

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They include the ‘guest of honour’ Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, Nepal President Bidhiya Devi Bhandari, and former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, while former Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and former French Prime Minister

Prime Minister Narendra Modi confirmed his participation on Thursday. While the Leaders forum is due to be held at a hotel, not at the contested site on the banks of the Yamuna river which has run into trouble with environmental and police clearances, the leaders were expected to attend the cultural festival as well.

The most public pull-out was that of 92-year-old Zimbabwean ruler Robert Mugabe, who cancelled his visit at the very last minute, even after his departure from Harare had been announced. According to a statement issued in Delhi by Mr. Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba, the cancellation followed a “communication from organisers of the festival acknowledging substantial inadequacies in protocol and security arrangements around the event.” The statement went on to say that, “A number of leaders slotted for participation, including those from the host country have also withdrawn their participation.” The pointed reference to the “host country” alluded to President Pranab Mukherjee, who was due to give valedictory address at the festival, but conveyed his regrets as he has to attend another function.

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