New Delhi: Hardeep Puri, the career diplomat before he made the switch to politics, will be the minister in waiting for US President Donald Trump’s visit to India next week. The job means that the 68-year-old civil aviation minister will accompany the presidential delegation to all of their official engagements in India, reports The Hindustan Times.
Piyush Goel was the minister-in-waiting to the visiting US President in 2015 Barack Obama. The designated minister in waiting, a ceremonial facet of any head of state visit, accompanies the visiting dignitary to all important events.
“It is mainly just to accompany and escort the state guest,” said former diplomat BS Prakash, calling the protocol to designate a minister as a “custom and courtesy extended to a visiting dignitary”.
He added that it was a prestigious gig because in many cases, it means that the Prime Minister has handpicked the person and offers him, or her, an opportunity to interact with the visiting dignitary.
Another diplomat told Hindustan Times that it is a fairly straightforward assignment that required someone who wasn’t going to make any `gaffes’. Puri, having served as envoy to the UK, Japan and other countries and the United Nations, certainly can be counted on for his tact.
It is unclear if there will be another minister who is assigned to the first lady, Melania Trump who is accompanying the President.
External Affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar told a news conference that it was not the government’s practice to announce the name of the minister in waiting.