Deccan Chronicle

Kerala Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran barred from China visit

Deccan Chronicle| John Mary

Published on: September 8, 2017 | Updated on: September 8, 2017

The state government, however, has decided to take the protest with the Union government.

Kadakampally Surendran

Kadakampally Surendran

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran is offended by the Centre’s ‘No’ to his China visit but sources say he has misread the subtle message India puts out, reiterating its consistent concerns and reservations over the One Road One Belt initiative, listed for high-level discussion at UN World Tourism Organisation’s general assembly at Chengdu from September 11 to 16.  "The presence of a VIP (a state minister) on the delegation at the meet, hosted by China, would have lent itself to an interpretation that we are softening our stand on the road network passing through Pak-occupied Kashmir," said a government official.

The state government, however, has decided to take the protest with the Union government. It is understood that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking objection to the denial of permission calling it an unfortunate development.    The Ministry of External Affairs had reservations, from the beginning, over the State Tourism minister’s participation in the discussion on "Tourism and the sustainable development goals". The programme highlight on September 13 is a "high-level segment on "Tourism and the sustainable development goals and building of partnerships for development: the example of the Belt and Road Initiative".

Union tourism joint secretary Suman Billa is scheduled to attend the meet and sources say the Indian representative will reiterate the nation’s considered position at whichever forum the host country raises the Belt and Road Initiative. But he will not attend the high-level segment on OBOR, sources say. Kerala tourism principal secretary Dr V. Venu has also pulled out, taking a cue from the minister. However, Ms Rajashree Ajith, the director of Kerala Institute of Travel and Tourism Studies, will attend since KITTS is an associate member of WTO. The participation is by invitation and there is no other official level representation, as of now. 

India had boycotted China’s Belt and Road Forum (Barf) summit in Beijing on 14-15 May. At the BRICS summit, differences between the countries resulted in altering the text of the Fuzhou Initiative—an open document released at the end of the conference - on the insistence of the Indian delegation. The nation’s major concern reflects an attempt to erode its sovereignty by China setting up a continent-spanning infrastructure initiative, involving China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), passing through PoK.

Sources told DC that the Kerala Minister had himself opted out, citing his preoccupations with party meetings. But Mr Surendran still believed the MoEF decision was embarrassing and he would write to the PM on the issue. "The MoEF is blinded by politics. Such things would do no good to the country", Mr Surendran told the media.  The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), however, said the decision was taken on the grounds that the proposed attendance was not commensurate with the higher status of a minister and it has nothing to do with the Sino-Indian relationship.

Sources told this newspaper that the Indian delegation going for the event to be held from September 11 to 16 in China comprises bureaucrats who are not at a top-level rank in the bureaucracy and it was therefore felt that it was not appropriate for a person of a much more senior rank of a minister to also be part of the same delegation.  The MEA therefore denied "political clearance" to the Kerala Minister for this reason. Sources also said that whenever such requests come, the MEA assesses the scale of the event to be held abroad and at what level the participation of delegations from India or other countries would be. Depending on that, the issue of  political clearance is decided upon. 

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