Protocol has been repeatedly thrown to the winds during Indian Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari’s ongoing official visit to two oil-rich Central Asian republics, an indication of the chord the former career diplomat has struck with his hosts.
Be it in this Kazakhstan capital or last week in Turkmenistan capital Ashgabat, presidents and prime ministers have gone out of their way to make the diplomat-academician-politician feel at home and send out a strong signal that they consider India a close and reliable ally.
It began on Saturday when Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov broke protocol and walked the last mile to see off the vice-president to his car after their one-on-one meeting and delegation level talks.
This happened moments after the two countries had inked a memorandum of understanding on engaging in the energy sphere, a breakthrough India had long hoped for as it would give it eventual access to Turkmenistan’s vast oil and gas reserves.
In normal course, Berdimuhamedov would have bid his guest au revior a few steps outside the room where the document was signed. Instead, he chose to escort Ansari close to 50 metres to his car, chatting with him — through an interpreter — all the way.
“It’s quite unprecedented. We were expecting the president to say his goodbyes soon after coming out of the ceremony. We were pleasantly surprised to have him walk with the vice president to his car,” an Indian official accompanying the vice-president said.
On Monday, when Ansari called on Kazakh Prime Minister Karim K. Massimov, the meeting was meant to last for a minute or two. Instead, they talked for over 10 minutes.