President Ram Nath Kovind accepts credentials of seven envoys in e-ceremony
Elaborate physical ceremonies for the presentation of credentials have been put on hold during the national lockdown with Covid-19 protocols firmly in place at Rashtrapati Bhavan and President Kovind minimising his engagements.Updated: May 22, 2020 04:31 IST
President Ram Nath Kovind became India’s first head of state to receive and accept diplomatic credentials of seven foreign envoys in an e-ceremony, heralding “digital diplomacy” because of the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
Elaborate physical ceremonies for the presentation of credentials have been put on hold during the national lockdown with Covid-19 protocols firmly in place at Rashtrapati Bhavan and President Kovind minimising his engagements. “But it was felt necessary to conduct the credential presentation online, as it is a vital part of diplomatic culture which shouldn’t be overlooked,” said a senior Rashtrapati Bhavan official who asked not to be named.
The ambassadors of DPR Korea, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, and the high commissioners of Trinidad & Tobago, Mauritius, Australia and Rwanda came to South Block on Thursday morningand stood one by one in front of a large screen, through which President Kovind welcomed them.
The distance between South Block and Rashtrapati Bhavan is less than 200 metres.
These were the first batch of envoys who presented their credentials after the Covid pandemic swept India leading to a federal lockdown since March 25.
Secretary (west) of the ministry of external affairs, Vikas Swaroop, was present with the envoys during the ceremony, the official cited above said.
“The envoys read out their letters credence and the President accepted them on the TV screen. They also nodded at the President as per the protocol, and some envoys even extended an invitation to the President on behalf of their head of state to visit their countries. The President accepted them and, at the end, he delivered a short speech welcoming them in India and also mentioned how our country is fighting against Covid,” said a second official aware of the matter.
As per protocol, envoys do not begin their formal duties until their credentials are accepted, and their precedence within the diplomatic corps is determined by the date on which the credentials are presented
Usually, the presentation of credentials is an elaborate ceremony with strict rules and rituals. The envoys come to Rashtrapati Bhavan accompanied by a foreign ministry official; they have to sit in a specific seat in the car with the protocol officer next to them; the diplomat is received at the forecourt of the presidential palace by the commander of the Presidential Guard; there is a guard of honour in the middle arc of the main entrance, and the police band plays the national anthem of the diplomat’s country. Once inside the ceremonial hall, the diplomat sits two metres away from the President; does not shake hands or exchange any words, but gives a gentle bow.
While these arrangements could not be done due to Covid restrictions, a new beginning was made.