Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Foreign dignitaries carry carpets (red?) as gifts for Indian politicians and officials

WHEN a foreign dignitary comes to New Delhi, India’s top diplomats leave no stone unturned to give them a red carpet welcome. What do they give in return? Believe it or not, foreign dignitaries too carry carpets as gifts for Indian politicians and officials. Carpet has emerged as one of the most preferred gift items of foreign dignitaries, as out of 41 gifts listed in the…
“Disclosure of Gifts received in Toshakhana” between July and September, 2013, by the ministry of external affairs (MEA), as many as seven were carpets. Those who received carpets as gifts included foreign secretary Sujatha Singh and National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon. According to rules, gifts received by officials and ministers are first sent to government Toshakhana or treasure-house where a valuation is done before it is decided whether it can be returned to the recipient or not. If a gift is below a certain amount specified by the government, it is returned to the recipient. If it is a high valued item, the recipient needs to pay the excess amount if he wants to claim that gift.
The other gift items included brass artifact, Nepalese caps, Tangail Saree, glass candle stand, Tissot watches, blue bowl, black vanity box, tea and coffee sets, and even quilts. The names of those foreign dignitaries who gave the gifts to the officials, are however not mentioned in the disclosure.
Those who received Swiss Tissot watches in the quarter ending September, included newly appointed India’s ambassador to Russia PS Raghavan and PMO director Munu Mahawar. According to the valuation done by Toshakhana, one such watch costs Rs 9,500. Mahawar, an IFS officer now posted in the PMO, received two Tissot watches, one gents watch and the other ladies watch, but the ladies one was deposited in the government treasure-house.
The gifts received by Syed Akbaruddin, also the MEA spokesperson, were a brass artifact (Rs 1,500) and two Nepalese caps (Rs 200). Foreign secretary Singh also received a black vanity box. Toshakhana valued it at Rs 1,500, and was returned to her.
In fact, MEA’s decision to undertake proactive disclosures of gifts received from foreigners is hailed as one of the major transparency moves in Indian government. The foreign office will now list all gifts, their recipients, valuations and the current status of those gift items, at the end of every quarter.

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