When Indian officials told the Cambodians that visiting Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen could not be accorded an official welcome ceremony on the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan on Monday, they decided to leave.
Officially, the reason offered was deference to the state mourning ordered for former Prime Minister Chandrashekhar, who died on Sunday. But, what really irked the high-powered Cambodian delegation was the lack of ceremony.
“Not cancelling the official banquet, not anything else,” an official source said. “What irked them was calling off the welcome ceremony,” which cannot be held under protocol regulations prescribed for a period of state mourning.
Hun Sen, who arrived in Delhi on Sunday on a three-day visit along with senior ministerial colleagues, was scheduled to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday and sign agreements in areas ranging from energy to defence and trade.
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee met the visiting Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, and offered to continue with all meetings except the ceremonial ones, but the visitors chose to return.
According to the spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs, Navtej Sarna, the Cambodians said “it would not be proper on their part to continue with the visit,” as the major meetings were scheduled for the day of the former PM’s funeral.
Hun Sen left for Phnom Penh, after promising to return soonwhen fresh dates are worked out.