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Canadian PM, wife visit Taj Mahal



Agra, Nov 5 (IANS) Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen visited the Taj Mahal here Monday morning, officials said. He described the 17th century Mughal monument as a "gift of beauty for all humanity".

"The visit lasted for one hour from 10.30 a.m. to 11.30 a.m.," Archaeological Survey of India official in charge of the Taj Mahal Munazzar Ali said.

The prime minister in blue suit and his wife in white took a stroll back alone from the monument. The couple held hands as they walked up a pathway, the marble structure rising up in the haze behind them.

The Canadian guests were accompanied with 50 others who were part of his delegation.

"This has been a real treat for Laureen and me. It is wonderful to see how such a monument for love for a queen has become a gift of beauty for all humanity," Harper wrote in the Visitors’ Book.

Guides Shamshuddin and Lalit Chawla who accompanied the VVIP couple told IANS: "The dignitaries enjoyed their visit thoroughly and asked several questions."

The prime minister inquired how such a wonderful building was built in 17th century without the availability of advanced technology. The guides told him that "it was passion and devotion of the people".

The visitors were informed that the marble for the monument was brought from Makrana in Rajasthan and a township of artisans and workshops was developed a kilometre away from the site.

The dignitaries arrived Sunday evening and spent the night at the Mughal Sheraton Hotel. Three Indo-Canadian MPs were also with him, an official said.

Harper is on a six-day visit to India to strengthen economic ties. The visit is being anxiously watched by a million-strong diaspora in Canada.

Efforts are being made to triple bilateral trade relations from the present around $5 billion to $15 billion annually by 2015. The tricky issue that will be discussed is the supply of uranium by Canada for India’s nuclear plants.

The Canadian prime minister and his delegation are scheduled to attend a business meet in New Delhi later in the afternoon.