Kolkata: Imagine the Indian prime minister being accorded a public reception at a soccer or baseball stadium somewhere in Houston or Chicago and the local administration is left clueless about who the official hosts or organisers of the show are? No marks for guessing whether such an event will ever pass master in terms of security and protocol parameters.
Now imagine a similar scenario involving the world’s most powerful public personality. United States President Donald Trump, in the company of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is scheduled to be given a public reception and a grand welcome at the 110,000-seater Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium (Motera Stadium) in Ahmedabad on Monday. Yet, until Friday afternoon even some of the senior officials with the Gujarat government, who are directly involved with the event, didn’t have a clear idea as to what this Donald Trump Nagarik Abhivadan Samiti (Citizen Felicitation Committee for Donald Trump) is all about!
Yes, you read it right: Donald Trump Nagarik Abhivadan Samiti — official host for Trump’s felicitation at Motera Stadium.
Neither the Public Information Bureau (PIB) officials that Gulf News spoke to nor a section of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) officials in New Delhi seemed to have a clear idea about this nondescript group that.
“I have absolutely no clue as to what this group is like. For all practical purposes, as far as I know, the Gujarat government is the prime facilitator of this event on Monday. I don’t think someone as high-profile as the US president will ever agree to attend a programme organised by a private body. But honestly, I have no idea about this group,” an official with the Gujarat unit of PIB told Gulf News from Ahmedabad on Friday.
When Gulf News tried to contact MEA officials in New Delhi for a clarification, there was no response. Calls and messages to MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar went unanswered.
“I’m not really aware of this group that is apparently hosting the Motera Stadium reception for President Trump. Never heard about it,” said another senior official from the state’s Information Department.
The question that is being raised in political circles in Gujarat, New Delhi and elsewhere is that for an event for which the Gujarat government is officially spending a whopping Rs1.2 billion (Dh62.3 million), how can the host be such a nondescript body that even high-ranking officials from the state’s Information Department haven’t heard of. And if that is the case, then the question obviously arises whether there isn’t always a risk of security and protocol being compromised at some point?
In fact, it was the MEA spokesperson who, on Thursday, during a media briefing in New Delhi, mentioned the name of the Samiti for the first time, raising eyebrows in many quarters. No further details about the group was available from MEA.
Raveesh Kumar was asked by a section of the media in New Delhi that while members from the opposition Democrats were invited to attend ‘Howdy Modi’ — the public felicitation accorded to Modi in Houston last September — how come no Indian opposition leaders were invited to attend Trump’s felicitation in Ahmedabad? In reply, Kumar said since the Ahmedabad event was being hosted by a private body, the government cannot invite members of the opposition.
It is quite likely that this could be a voluntary organisation partly comprising well-placed non-resident Indians mainly from the United States and partly containing influential members of the business community in Gujarat. But whatever may be the form and nature of such a group, the MEA and the Gujarat government’s inability or reluctance to share further details about it have only helped raise uneasy questions and given the opposition a chance to take a swipe at the government.