| Vladimir Putin and his wife with Vasundhara Raje (left) after his arrival at Palam airport in New Delhi. (PTI)
New Delhi, Dec. 3: Minister-in-waiting Vasundhara Raje lived up to her designation and kept Russian President Vladimir Putin waiting this evening, unwittingly reminding a time-tested friend and a former superpower of the way the world has changed.
Raje, who was in charge of receiving the foreign head of state, was not on the frontline initially to greet the Russian President when he landed at Palam airport around 7 pm.
Also missing from the line-up was foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal — the senior-most official in the Indian welcome party.
Usually, the minister-in-waiting is supposed to be near the ladder to receive the guest as he alights from the aircraft.
But Raje — said to have been held up in Parliament by a key Bill and on the road by a traffic snarl — managed to reach the airport only after the aircraft had come to a halt and Putin had started walking towards the Indian line-up, largely made of officials.
Seconds later, Sibal also walked up and managed to find his place among the waiting Indian officials.
As the presidential aircraft landed, the Russian ambassador to India, Alexander M. Kadakin, went up the ladder. Putin raced down the ladder and began shaking hands while Raje and Sibal hastily joined the reception line.
Raje had to squeeze through the middle of the line-up to greet Putin while Sibal had to position himself at the end of the line.
“I was present in the Lok Sabha till a little past 6 pm for the passage of the important Freedom of Information Bill. I was also delayed due to the rush-hour traffic,” Raje told PTI.
Sibal said he was briefing the Prime Minister on the Russian President’s visit till 6.30 pm and was also caught in the traffic snarl.
Red-faced foreign ministry officials tried to play down the incident, but admitted that Raje was a few minutes late in arriving at the airport. “She was late, but she managed to join the welcome party,” an official said. Sources said Raje later apologised for being late.
Soon after his arrival, Putin was driven to 7 Race Course Road where a “private dinner” was hosted for him by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.