Wednesday, October 14, 2009

State gifts & Stately Gifts

Age old diplomatic precedents and protocols demand that a visiting Head of states are offered gifts befitting their world stature and strength of their nation's friendship. The US constitution abhorred such diplomatic gifts so much that a clause in their Constitution actually prohibits public officials from accepting gifts from foreign officials. In modern days, the trend is on full public disclosure rather than declining the gifts outright.

So every time a President/ PM or a King travels abroad, host nations scramble for a befitting gift. During Nehruvian era, India gifted our pedigree Tigers and elephants as state gifts. In course of time these gifts were rendered out dated ( perhaps this could have led to the phrase "white elephant" gifts?). Live animals have fallen out of fashion in Western diplomatic circles too. A rare pedigree breed dog presented to George Bush Jr. had a tough time to pass the country's quarantine standards, before being adopted. ( No it wasn't Bush who adopted the dog).

Then we had President Col Nasser of Egypt who presented a bride as a state gift to Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana (by the way Fathia Nkrumah was a Coptic Christian, so I guess Nasser had no qualms of gifting her).

Lately the Foreign Office of many nations have run out of ideas. US President Obama presented Queen Elizabeth an iPod with popular US tracks and a footage of her previous visits. (phew... I wonder who in the State Department proposed such an idea !!). The Queen had no trouble in reciprocating the same. She usually gives a standard silver framed photograph of herself and her hubby, with her autograph on it. Alas, they still think they are some sort a celebrity couple. Well at least you can excuse them.

Well it is time to revisit this age old diplomatic practice and put an end to these mindless protocols and trivialities.

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