India has no problem giving First Lady status to Bruni


New Delhi : India is not only willing to host supermodel-turned-singer Carla Bruni, who is expected to accompany French President Nicolas Sarkozy later this month, but is also willing to treat her as a First Lady in terms of protocol.

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“The protocol anxieties written about in the media are quite overblown. If the French say she is our First Lady, we have no issues. It’s for them to decide how she should be treated,” an official involved with preparing Sarkozy’s visit told IANS.

“There are no moral issues here. If the French declare her First Lady, we will become the first country to welcome her as First Lady. It will be a boost for India-France relations,” the official said, keeping his tongue firmly in cheek.

“It’s for the French to officially convey to us where she stands in the presidential delegation. She can come here as part of official delegation, ministerial delegation or the president’s personal delegation,” Dalip Mehta, a veteran diplomat who served as chief of protocol in the early nineties, told IANS.

“If I was the chief of protocol today, I would go by the official list given by the French government and her designation in the delegation. Her status at the presidential banquet or ceremonies will flow from that,” Mehta stressed.

Sarkozy will be the chief guest at India’s Republic Day parade – a signal honour bestowed only on the leaders of countries with whom New Delhi shares special ties.

“By agreeing to the French wish to treat her the way they want it, we will create an enormous amount of goodwill. The French will appreciate that India has gone the extra mile to accommodate her,” he said.

“If you go by press reports in France, the French are absolutely delighted that their president has found a companion with whom he may be getting married,” he said.

G. Parthasarathy, a veteran diplomat and commentator, is amused by the hullabaloo over Bruni’s proposed visit.

“The nation that crafted Kama Sutra should not be squeamish about it. If the French wants her to be treated like First Lady, so be it. It will make things easier for us,” said Parthasarathy.

“When I was in the prime minister’s office in the 1980s, there was a case of Latin American president who came here with his companion to attend a multi-lateral conference. She was not listed in the official delegation. But we sorted out the issue amicably,” Parthasarathy recalled.

Sarkozy and Bruni first surfaced as a couple in December 2007 on a visit to Disneyland in Paris, two months after the French president’s divorce from his wife of 11 years Cecilia. Last month, Sarkozy and Bruni holidayed together in Cairo and Luxor in Egypt and Petra in Jordan.