India reacted with fury on Saturday at the “brazenness” with which proclaimed offender Vijay Mallya joined a book launch event at the London School of Economics attended by Indian high commissioner Navtej Sarna, who walked out mid-way.
India is likely to take up strongly with the David Cameron government Mallya’s apparent attempt to embarrass its representatives in London. The LSE event on Thursday evening was to launch Suhel Seth’s book on 21 Indian CEOs titled “Mantras for Success”.
“Why should the Indian high commissioner have to leave such an event? It should be Mallya doing so. He has taken to embarrassing India with his brazenness, which calls into question Britain’s action or inaction to respond to India’s requests to bring him to justice,” a senior representative said.
She added: “It also calls into question the nationalism of Indian circles who invite a proclaimed offender to events. High commission officials are doing their job representing India, but is it only their duty to do so?”
There were indications India will soon take up Mallya-related issues strongly with the Cameron government. Britain previously advised India to consider initiating extradition proceedings against him instead of seeking deportation.
Mallya created a flutter at the book launch when he walked in with his daughter and sat through most of the session. The event was organised by the 100 Foot Journey Club, a joint initiative of the LSE South Asia Centre and the Indian high commission.
Sarna, who was on the dais with universities minister Jo Johnson, Seth and LSE academic Mukulika Banerjee, did not stay for a panel discussion and left LSE’s Old Theatre venue in Aldwych after becoming aware of Mallya’s presence. Mallya exchanged pleasantries with Seth and some members of the audience before leaving.
Indian high commission sources told Hindustan Times that Mallya was “definitely not” invited by the mission. He was also not invited to a reception held after the book launch at the nearby India House, they said.
An external affairs ministry spokesperson said in New Delhi that there were “two clear segments” during Thursday’s event - the book launch by British minister Jo Johnson and the discussion at LSE, and later a reception at the high commission for select guests.
“The list of invitations for the LSE event was determined by LSE. They have written to the high commissioner that Mallya was not on their list. They have also said that the event was advertised widely through social media and attendees were not required to register in advance,” the spokesperson said.
“When the High Commissioner spotted Mallya in the audience he left the stage and venue immediately after making his comments and without waiting for the interactive session.”
Mallya was “certainly not an invitee to the reception” at the high commission and was not present.
After arriving in London on March 2 in the wake of allegations of financial irregularities involving thousands of crores of rupees, Mallya was not seen at India-related public events until recently. The book launch was the latest event at which he was publicly seen.