India says no to US request on Sarah Palin
New Delhi refused American request to elevate Palin’s visit to ministerial status
Photo: Roger H. Goun
In an important snub, India last week cold-shouldered Sarah Palin, former Republican US governor and possible contender for the 2012 presidential election, refusing a request for ‘adequate protocol’.
Palin was here for a conclave organised by a media group. The American Embassy in New Delhi sent a request to India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) basically for an elevation in the status of the visit.
The Americans wanted the MEA to treat Palin’s visit at par with a senior ministerial visit. This would have mandated the MEA to depute an official-in-waiting on Palin and arrange for other things like hooting escort vehicles and guards.
But, the MEA did not upgrade the protocol during Palin’s visit.
This was apparently meant to be a mark of protest against ‘discrimination and racial profiling’ of Indians at American airports.
Sources said the Indian government wanted to convey its anger and rancour against the recent incidents of frisking involving Indian envoys both at Washington and at the United Nations.
“Despite our attempts to sensitise the US administration about the consequences of such incidents, there seems no let up,” a senior MEA official said, referring to the December 2010 incident involving Hardip Puri, India’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations, where he was asked to remove his turban for security reasons.
Around the same time, Indian Ambassador to the US Meera Shankar was pulled out of an airport security line and patted down by an American security agent in Mississippi though she mentioned her diplomatic status.
In April 2009, former President APJ Abdul Kalam was frisked at the New Delhi International Airport by the ground staff of Continental Airlines when he was travelling to the US.
MEA officials said a growing number of prominent Indians had already been subjected to such treatment.
Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan was detained and questioned for two hours at the Newark Airport near New Jersey apparently because of his name. A few years ago, Wipro founder Azim Premji had complained of being profiled because of his religion, every time he goes to an airport in the US.
The snub to Palin was a reminder that such things should be stopped.
Palin was the Republican running mate to John McCain in the 2008 election, which Barack Obama won. She was on her first visit to India.
The snub in New Delhi was unlike the reception given to her in Israel, where she flew to from India. In India, Palin was not granted audience by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Even External Affairs Minister SM Krishna did not meet Palin.
But, during her two-day visit to Israel, Palin had dinner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his official residence in Jerusalem.
Iftikhar Gilani is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.com.