Days after the central government denied permission to Kerala Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran to visit China to take part in United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) seminar, Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh has issued a clarification.
Speaking to reporters of Wednesday, VK Singh said that the Union Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had refused permission to the Kerala Minister, taking into consideration various protocol issues.
"When we give a political clearance, we seek views of our mission and embassy out there. If we find that correct protocol arrangements are not being made, and a relevant person of that level is not meeting our Minister, we will not allow our minister to go," the Minister said.
Saying that the Ministry was protecting the prestige of the country by denying permission to the Kerala minister, VK Singh said:
"We are conscious that we do not want our people to be downgraded in the country in which they are visiting. That is the sole criteria that we have. And here, the prestige of the country is concerned, and not that of a state."
Kerala's Tourism and Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran was scheduled to attend a meeting at the UNWTO at Chengdu in China from September 11 to September 16. This, after UNWTO had extended an invitation to the minister, in a letter dated June 30.
However, the MEA had struck down the request on September 8, without giving proper clarification.
The Centre's decision had triggered criticism, with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan expressing shock over the incident.
Terming the MEA's move as "discriminatory and biased," CM Pinarayi had said:
"Have written to the @PMOIndia for reconsideration of this decision & issue of political clearance for his travel to china for the event."
Surendran had written to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, to convey his disappointment regarding the stand taken by the ministry.
"I am not aware of the reasons for denying clearance for the visit. It is unfortunate that a Minister, undertaking an official visit that could have brought benefits to the state, has been denied this opportunity to participate in an international forum," he had said in his letter.