In the picture—As FIATA World Congress got underway in
New Delhi, Wednesday September 25, (L) Samir Shah, Robert A. Voltmann,
Neeraj Bansal, Chairman Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, Debashis Dutta,
Organizing Committee Chairman and A V Vijaykumar light the lamp.
Meantime FIATA President Badat of Pakistan, unable to obtain an
India Visa, was a no-show.
As The FIATA World Congress got underway
in New Delhi, India the 1000-odd delegates and special invitees
from the government and private organizations settled into their seats
as a firestorm erupted from the first speaker’s platform.
Tirade Lays It On The Line
On the dais was Robert A. Voltmann, FIATA’s
Secretary General. Invited to speak, Voltmann pointed out that a Secretary
General had never addressed a World Congress in FIATA’s 92-year
history. That was because the FIATA President, Babar Badat from Pakistan,
was not present.
Badat, he said, had not been given a visa
by the Indian government.
FIATA, said Voltmann, was a non-political
organization but, he emphasized – rather hastily – that the
Indian government had politicized the whole visa issue by not giving him
one: “The Indian government says it has given a visa, but it has
Cold War Years Recalled
Adding fuel to the fire, the FIATA Secretary General
said that even during the Cold War years, nothing like the Badat incident
had happened. He trotted out more examples: Chinese FIATA delegates have
been welcomed in Taipei, Jewish delegates have visited Dubai and Cypriots
have been to Turkey for meetings.
The High Ground
Although Voltmann mentioned that FIATA would
rise above all this since “we are used to finding solutions”.
“We will be the change”, he emphasized, and to show “our
protest” he asked the gathering to stand for Babar Badat.
Under the Heat
Even as the next speaker was preparing to
deliver his keynote address, Vandana Aggarwal, Economic Adviser, Ministry
of Civil Aviation interjected. The seniormost government bureaucrat present
in the gathering, she pointed out that Voltmann was wrong. Babar Badat
had been given a visa and she had a copy of the email that had been sent
to him as proof. “Alleging that the
Indian government had politicized the issue was totally wrong,”
that an esteemed businessman who also happens to be President of
the world’s most important organized air forwarder group would
be put through the ringer by bureaucrats of India.” That was
one reaction to the news that FIATA President Babar Badat of Pakistan
was refused a visa to preside over the FIATA World Congress this
week in New Delhi.
“Everyone had so much hope for
this congress that would bring together the very similar cultures
of India and Pakistan under one roof to accelerate cooperation for
international commerce,” a source told FlyingTypers.
Pakistan Ban Played On
FlyingTypers also learned
that there were about 50 applicants from Pakistan that attempted
to obtain visas to attend the FIATA World Congress and not a single
visa was granted. India apparently decided, as one source put it,
“to build a political firewall around this great international
In previous conversations leading
up to FIATA New Delhi, we had asked Babar if he anticipated any
difficulty securing a visa for the event because of politics. He
“I have travelled to India on
business and enjoy many good and positive relationships in that
So why was Mr. Badat denied a visa
and refused entry?
We Know Babar Badat
It’s truly unfortunate that
some small minds wiggled their way into the big plan of FIATA, an
organization of more than 40,000 freight forwarders.
Babar Badat is a true pioneer freight
forwarder. He has worked hard to build a great commercial enterprise
and has been a lightening rod organizing the freight forwarder community
Babar truly deserved better.
We should not forget his gentle, guiding
hand as President of FIATA. His absence in New Delhi stifles the
possibility of achieving what should have been a truly great conference
for all of us.
Whatever the reason, Badat was not present
to give his side of the story. However, what it did was mar the occasion
which saw the three finalists of the FIATA Young Freight Forwarder of
the Year Award for 2018 – Tjaka Segooa from Region Africa Middle
East, Sarah Kate Skrypec from Region Asia Pacific and, Louis Perrin from
Region Europe – being acknowledged for their ideas and receiving
The soothing balm came from Samir Shah,
Mentor and Past Chairman, FFFAI. Speaking at the first interactive session
that followed the inaugural meet, he pointed out “we are all international
players” – meaning simply that visas and other such things
should not hinder the business of trade and logistics.