Modi visit to Russia overshadowed by Oman advert

Vol 13, PW 11 (05 Nov 09) People & Policy

Tempers flared during a press briefing in Ahmedabad last week to highlight Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Russia.

At the October 29 press meet, chief secretary D. Rajagopalan was visibly irritated when asked about the significance of an advertisement by the Oman Embassy in The Hindu newspaper on October 23 – two days before Modi left for Russia at the head of a blue-chip business delegation.

In the advertisement, the Oman Embassy stressed that Modi’s planned visit en route to Russia was not by state invitation. “You are asking the question at the wrong place,â€‌ thundered Rajagopalan.

“Just look at a world map and see where Ahmedabad is and where Oman is. Does Oman even fall on the route to Russiaâ€‌ Sitting uneasily with Rajagopalan during his brief outburst were GSPC managing director DJ Pandian, Shell Hazira CEO Nitin Shukla, energy secretary S.

Jagadeesan and Torrent chairman Sudhir Mehta. But Modi was notably absent – sick with swine flu after the Russian trip! In Ahmedabad there was fevered speculation in the days before Modi’s trip that he would stop in Oman on an â€کofficial visit’ before heading to Russia.

But it seems US and UK human rights groups brought pressure on Oman to clarify its position and on October 25 Modi flew straight to Russia, skipping Oman. Accompanying him were Rajagopalan, Jagadeesan, Pandian, Mehta, Shukla, plus Swan Group chairman Nikhil Merchant, and Hari Bhartia from Jubilant.

“Modi’s trip to Russia,â€‌ said Rajagopalan “was one of the most successful ever in terms of underscoring the importance of Gujarat in the oil and gas sector.â€‌ Modi was apparently invited to Oman in a private capacity by the Dutch Norterdam Company.

In its advert the Oman Embassy clarified that this company has projects in Oman and that it was the company - not the Oman government - which invited Modi. “The Government of the Sultanate of Oman has no relation to this visit,â€‌ stated the embassy, “since he (Modi) is the guest of the above mentioned company.