NEW DELHI: With only a day left to go for the swearing-in ceremony, rapid changes in schedule are keeping all involved on their toes. Frayed nerves and hectic activity are evident in the corridors of South Block, with the first of the foreign dignitaries scheduled to arrive in the national capital on Sunday afternoon.
By Saturday morning, all the eight countries invited had sent their RSVP for the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister designate Narendra Modi.
So, the final roll call is Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, Maldives President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Bangladesh Speaker S S Chaudhary and Mauritius President Navin Ramgoolam.
Officials at the External Affairs Ministry have been putting in long hours to ensure that the swearing-in ceremony at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan, which has now morphed into a major diplomatic event, goes off by like clockwork.
While the outline of the schedule is clear, there is still the minute-to-minute programme to be filled in.
“Right now, we are holding rehearsals. This is the most important part of protocol to ensure that everything goes off like clockwork,” said a senior MEA official. Another added, “What means at least a month of preparations has been compressed into two days.”
The first foreign VVIP to arrive would be the Bangladesh Speaker on Sunday, followed by Bhutan’s Prime Minister. The last foreign guests will leave only on Wednesday.
Former Chief of Protocol of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Ruchira Kamboj, who had just moved to Paris on her new assignment, was informed on Tuesday that she would have to fly down quickly to make the arrangements, with the current incumbent Pradip Kumar Rawat having been on the job only for a month. She reached Delhi on Wednesday night. Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh is of course the chief conductor, being the main person to coordinate between the Ministry of External Affairs and the incoming leadership.
Every aspect is being carefully decided, from accommodation to motorcades, flight clearances to seating arrangements and of course, meeting with principal interlocutors.
The seating arrangements are based on hierarchy and then on alphabetic basis, as per universal protocol norms.
In the last few days, territorial divisions had been keeping briefs ready, waiting for a likely summons to do a sudden briefing for the new leadership.