When one VIP slows down another: The Tribune India
India, as a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement, has been respected around the world for decades. In this context, we played a leading role in consolidating world opinion against the former pro-apartheid regime in South Africa. To this end, an international conference under the aegis of Africa Fund was organized in New Delhi in 1987.
At the invitation of our Prime Minister, six Heads of State/Government were invited, including Kenneth Kaunda from Zambia, Robert Mugabe from Zimbabwe and Abdou Diouf from Senegal. During this period, terrorist activities were at their peak as a few months earlier there was a targeted attack on the Prime Minister at Raj Ghat on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti. As such, safety had become a major consideration. I was only a few weeks away from the difficult mission of being in charge of security, and it was my first time managing a major international event. As our preparations for the Republic Day parade were at an advanced stage, all delegations were accommodated in a five-star hotel near Vigyan Bhawan.
While preparations for the summit and other conference-related events went smoothly, it was only on the last day that we encountered a serious protocol-related issue. On these days, all ceremonies for visiting dignitaries were held at Palam airport. For the departure of the dignitaries, the PM was present in advance to see them off. Their departures had been organized in such a way that while one arrived at the airport, the next one left the hotel, thus leaving a sufficient gap. It turns out that Mugabe, before getting on the plane, wanted to discuss something with the PM and waved him away. Both then went to the VIP room. By then Kaunda had already left for the airport. The External Affairs Chief of Protocol managed to get a message to the PM through the GSP officer, but there was no sign of movement.
In order to avoid any inconvenience at the airport, it was decided to slow down the Zambian motorcade. As a result, a message was given to the pilot car on the safety net to slow down. As the speed was drastically reduced, the crowds along the route, accustomed to parading VIPs, stood in awe of this slow-motion motorcade phenomenon. Without showing signs of anxiety and in a diplomatic manner, Kaunda continued to have a polite conversation with our security guard attached with him for the visit.
He arrived in Palam almost 30 minutes late, but as he was received by our Prime Minister, I could see a wide smile on his face and with the heavily starched trademark white handkerchief in his left hand. , he remarked, “I got to look at your campaign well.
Much later, the protocol was changed on various considerations, and nowadays all ceremonies are held at Rashtrapati Bhawan.