The absence of any senior elected representative from Karnataka to welcome French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the HAL Airport here on Saturday raised quite a few eyebrows, even as officials denied any protocol violation.
Mr. Sarkozy, who was accompanied by his wife, Carla Bruni, and a couple of Ministers, was welcomed by DPAR Protocol Secretary K.R. Srinivasan, Joint Secretary V.G. Diwakar and Additional Commissioner for Traffic Praveen Sood. According to official sources, Indian Ambassador to France Ranjan Mathai was also present.
Some officials on duty felt that elected representatives should have been there to welcome the dignitaries. In the past, Mayors, Deputy Mayors, Chief Ministers and Governors personally welcomed visiting dignitaries, they argued.
A senior official denied that protocol had been violated by not inviting political leaders to welcome the foreign delegation. “External Affairs Ministry guidelines do not permit this. State representatives get the opportunity to welcome heads of state only after they have been given a ceremonial welcome in New Delhi. In this case, Mr. Sarkozy was visiting Bangalore before Delhi.” The guidelines were applicable across the country, sources said and added regular protocol would apply if the dignitary came to the State capital after a visit to the national capital.
In this specific case, the MEA issued the reception and send-off line-up, which included the protocol secretary, the joint secretary and a senior police official. Mr. Sood was present for the reception and Police Commissioner Shankar Bidari was present when Mr. Sarkozy was seen off, the sources said.
However, it was also pointed out that when President Barack Obama landed in Mumbai directly from the U.S., the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra Ashok Chavan, along with a Minister-in-waiting, was present to welcome him.
Sources in the Mayor's office here maintained that they had no intimation about the French President's visit to the city.