The diplomats in the external affairs ministry are upset over the gaffe by Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann during his German visit when he announced that auto giant BMW had decided to set up a new manufacturing plant in his state.
Government sources told News18 that the incident had left the diplomats “very embarrassed” and had “hurt the credibility” of the country and Indian diplomacy abroad. Mann’s statement was denied by the BMW Group soon after.
“Such exaggerated and unwarranted claims were inadvisable. The CM was representing the country abroad and our diplomats had arranged the meeting (with BMW). Now, the blowback of this gaffe comes to the diplomats. It hurts the credibility of the country and government,” a source said.
Sources in fact cited another such incident last year when Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal claimed that a Singapore variant of Covid was harmful for children, which led to Singapore lodging an angry protest with the external affairs ministry and India’s high commissioner there was summoned. External affairs minister S Jaishankar was constrained then to clarify that “the Delhi CM does not speak for India”. A source said that the Mann episode was in fact the second time a chief minister had embarrassed the country abroad.
Mann’s faux pas
The BMW Group in India released a statement on Wednesday saying it had no plans for setting up additional manufacturing operations in Punjab. “The BMW Group is firmly committed to its Indian operations with its manufacturing plant in Chennai, a parts warehouse in Pune, a training center in Gurgaon NCR and a well-developed dealer network across major metropolitans of the country. BMW Group India has no plans for setting up additional manufacturing operations in Punjab,” stated a press release issued by BMW Group India.
This was after the Punjab government had announced that the company had agreed to set up its auto parts manufacturing unit in the state. “The efforts of Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann to rope in major investments from Germany bore fruit on Tuesday as leading auto giant BMW agreed to set up its auto part manufacturing unit in the state,” stated the government press release.
On Thursday, the Aam Aadmi Party tried to offer a rather unconvincing justification saying that the head office of a company (BMW) and the country office are different and Mann had met the officials of BMW at their head office in Germany. AAP still claims that BMW in their head office in Germany evinced interest in setting up a plant in Punjab after an offer for the same was given by the chief minister.
However, BMW’s flat denial of any such agreement has left Indian diplomacy deeply embarrassed.