New Delhi: Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who had been denied a diplomatic visa by the US, faced fresh embarrassment when Oman distanced itself from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader’s proposed visit to that country as the head of a business delegation.
The Arab country’s government posted an advertisement in The Hindu newspaper on 23 October stating that the chief minister was not visiting Oman as a state guest and was doing so in a personal capacity.
In a curious twist, the chief minister’s office said that there were no immediate plans to visit Oman.
Despite repeated attempts, Mint could not contact Oman’s ambassador to India, Sheikh Humaid Ali Bin Sultan Al-Mani, though his office did not deny the advertisement. Mint could not independently confirm the exact dates of the proposed visit.
The advertisement, under the title “To whom it may concern”, says: “The embassy of the Sultanate of Oman would like to inform that Dutch Norterdam Company has some projects in Sohar city, Sultanate of Oman. Hence the company has agreements with state of Gujarat, republic of India, it has invited Mr. Narendra Modi the chief minister of Gujarat to visit its projects in Sohar. The government of the Sultanate of Oman has no relation to this visit since he is a guest of the above mentioned company.”
Private visit? Modi in Ahmedabad during the Diwali holiday. The chief minister’s office insisted he has no immediate plan to travel to Oman. Sam Panthaky / AFP
The Dutch company that has shown interest in a port project in Gujarat’s Positra is the Port of Rotterdam Authority, not Dutch Norterdam.
The Gujarat government insisted that the chief minister was not planning to visit Oman for the time being.
“I am not aware of any such visits. There is no plan for any Oman visit right now,” Gujarat chief secretary D. Rajagopal said.
Another official in the chief minister’s office, who did not want to be identified, added: “The chief minister is visiting Russia beginning this Sunday. Modi is scheduled to lead a high-level delegation (of industrialists and senior bureaucrats) to Russia on 25 October for World Energy Week.”
A nine-member delegation led by Maqbool Ali Sultan, industries and commerce minister of Oman, had met Modi last month to discuss ways to increase partnership between Gujarat and Oman in trade and commerce. During the Gujarat investors’ summit in last January, Oman had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Gujarat government for a port project in the state.
The state government officials quoted by IANS on 4 September had claimed that the Oman minister had extended an invitation to Modi to visit the free trade zone, the international transshipment hub and Sohar port in Oman. The Oman government had not denied the news report.
This is not the first time that the chief minister has courted such controversy.
The US had denied Modi entry to attend the Gujarati culture conferences in 2005 and 2008, citing a section of the US Immigration and Nationality Act that prohibits anybody who was “responsible for, or directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom” from entering the US.
The Nanavati Commission, which probed the Godhra train carnage in which 58 people had been killed and the subsequent riots in Gujarat, had, however, given a clean chit to Modi.
An earlier commission, headed by U.C. Bannerjee, had indicted Modi.
Former foreign secretary Salman Haider, however, sees the advertisement as an “official clarification” from Oman that the proposed visit was “just a private visit” and that it was “disassociating itself from the visit of a person in the high position”.
“Oman has good relations and business ties with India and it does not want them to be called into question,” Haider added.
However, the BJP reacted sharply. “Public advertisements like this are deplorable and in bad taste. Gujarat has proved an industry-friendly state and is attracting investments from the world over,” party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
Santosh K. Joy contributed to this story.