In a decision taken with inputs from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), the Union Government has denied permission to Kerala Tourism and Cooperation Minister Kadakampally Surendran to attend the 22nd session of the general assembly of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), commencing in Chengdu, China, from September 11.
The one-word “denial” was communicated to the office of the Tourism Minister late on Thursday.
The efforts of the State government to find out the reason for denial of permission to Mr. Surendran to attend the six-day event through Kerala’s Liaison Officer in New Delhi did not succeed, an official of the Minister’s office said. Highly placed sources told The Hindu that it was a “diplomatic” decision.
The sources said the agenda of China to promote the “Belt and Road initiative” (Silk route) at the UNWTO platform had resulted in the denial of permission.
Mr. Surendran, the lone Tourism Minister from the country, was to attend “Tourism and the Sustainable Development Goals & Building Partnerships for Development: the Example of the Belt and Road Initiative” at the UNWTO session on September 13, sources said.
It has been decided to deny permission to other government officials from the country to attend the UNWTO General Assembly under the theme “Tourism and the Sustainable Development Goals-Journey to 2030”. However, the Joint Secretary, Tourism, Suman Billa, an IAS officer of Kerala on Central deputation, will represent the country.
Principal Secretary, Tourism, V. Venu and the Director of Kerala Institute of Tourism and Travel Studies (KITTS), Rajashree Ajith who were to accompany Mr. Surendran will not be going to China. Mr. Surendran was also scheduled to interact with the UNWTO Secretary General to take forward the UNWTO intiatives in Kerala.
Reacting to the Centre’s decision, the Tourism Minister said the denial of permission was a ‘political decision” and that he will petition the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi on Saturday.
Mr. Surendran had applied for ‘political clearance’ for the visit in the second week of August up on receiving the invitation of the UNWTO Secretary General, Taleb Rifaii. Mr. Rifaii had stated in the letter, a copy of which is available with The Hindu, that the invitation has been extended on behalf of the Government of China.
The UNTWO, a UN specialized agency, is the leading international organisation with the decisive and central role in promoting the development of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism. A global forum for tourism policy issues and a practical source of tourism know-how, it’s membership includes 156 countries, 6 territories, 2 permanent observers and over 500 Affiliate Members.
(With inputs from Kallol Bhattacherjee)
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