February 28, 2020
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A Diplomat Who Sprints On Track

A Diplomat Who Sprints On Track
Any country can have one ambassador. But when you are a billion strong, you need more representation. At least that is what the BJP thinks, taxpayers be damned. Three ambassadors are on hand to receive Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on his US visit. The excess of ambassadors has already created an excess of protocol headaches because one can’t stand the other. But the race has been won by Lalit Mansingh, India’s ‘real’ ambassador to the US. He has bagged the privilege of going inside the airplane to welcome Vajpayee, stepping on the toes of Bhishm Agnihotri, the ambassador-at-large for NRIs and PIOs. Agnihotri will stay down below in the receiving line alongside Vijay Nambiar, India’s ambassador to the UN. Mansingh also gets to travel in the same car as Vajpayee while Agnihotri will trail behind.

But come Sunday, Agnihotri, who’s incidentally Vajpayee’s personal friend, will preen if he can collect enough NRIs to fill the 4,000 seats at the Jacob Javits Center for the PM’s public speech. He has sent blanket invitations to sundry NRI organisations. Taxpayers will also fund the travel of poets and literati for a kavi sammelan that Vajpayee will inaugurate so his other BJP friends—who too can’t stand Agnihotri—abroad can shine.

Vajpayee created a special post for Agnihotri over the heads of MEA diplomats who sniff loudly at this tacky Sangh parivar gate-crasher. Eager-beaver Agnihotri muscled an ambassador rank for himself from the UN—he’s special advisor to India’s permanent mission there—last year after the state department declined to "recognise" him. Agnihotri is so thrilled with his new job that even the elevators in his Manhattan high-rise office bombastically announce the presence of "Ambassador" Agnihotri in the building. As they say, if you can’t be called ambassador, what is the point?

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