The Telegraph
Sunday , February 23 , 2014
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Assam swings into envoys’ hearts

- Diplomats laud hospitality, Gogoi outlines vision for tourism

Jorhat, Feb. 22: Assam’s warm hospitality, sprawling greenery, mind-boggling fauna and a difficult golf course, which challenged players to best it, conquered the hearts of the high-profile representatives from nine different countries on a three-day visit to this part, most of them for the first time.

“We don’t want to leave. We want to live here,” Zimbabwe an ambassador Jonathan Wutawunashe told reporters at the resort today, speaking on behalf of and summing up the feelings of the diplomats at the Kaziranga Golf Resort in Sangsua tea estate in Mohbandha in Jorhat district.

“Assam had a cat in its bag. Now that it has been let out, it is lovely, tantalising and fascinating,” he added.

The ambassador said when they go back, they would definitely spread the word about Assam’s attractions.

The delegation, comprising Sri Lankan high commissioner Prasad Kariyawasam, Brunei high commissioner Dato Paduka Sidek Ali, Indonesian ambassador Rizali Indrakesuma, Philippine ambassador Benito B. Valeriano, Cambodian ambassador Yous Makan, Kazakhstan ambassador Doulat Kuanshev, European Union deputy head of delegation Pavel Svitil, among others, had arrived from New Delhi on Thursday.

They visited Kaziranga National Park and Kaziranga University yesterday and played golf at the resort.

“We have friends back home and friends in India from other states. We will tell them that there is one more state and of all that it has to offer. The potential is worth sharing. We will keep knocking on your door,” the ambassador said.

Quoting another member of the delegation on the tour of Kaziranga National Park, Wutawunashe said, “I do not know why I spend my life so much indoors. I should be here more, among these deer and rhinos.”

Appreciating the lush tea garden which nestles the 18-hole golf course, he said, “We all kept hitting the ball towards the tea bushes. We thought we would find a kettle of tea in its midst when we searched for the ball.”

He also appreciated the great rhino conservation effort here, which saved the near-extinct rhino population.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi, relaxed and cheerful after teeing off the Assam International Diplomats Invitation Golf Meet at 7.30 this morning, hoped the ambassadors of different countries would now turn into ambassadors for Assam.

“This is a good beginning. Assam has a lot to offer. Apart from golf and Kaziranga, there is Majuli, with its Vaishnavite heritage and Mising culture, and Sivasagar, which is of historic importance. We have adventure tourism like river rafting and trekking. Moreover, the cuisine and the diverse cultures make for a great stay here,” he told the gathering.

“What is important is to connect with other parts. This not only promotes friendship but also defuses conflict,” he said.

Gogoi said he had personally taken an interest in making the arrangements and was happy that everything had gone so smoothly. “What is required is more publicity so that the tourism potential grows and leads to more employability,” he added.

The Sri Lankan envoy returned today, carrying with him a packet of Gotong’s tea and the famed Titabar rice.

The tour was organised by Assam Tourism Development Corporation in collaboration with Sunday Guardian, Oil India Ltd, Assam Golf Association and Kaziranga University.