New Delhi: There needs to be a certain "code of conduct" by tourists, including foreign tourists, that's in sync with the culture and traditions of the place they visit, Tourism Minister KJ Alphons has said.
"Abroad, foreigners walk the streets in bikinis. When they come to India, you don't expect foreigners to walk around in bikinis in our towns. In Goa, they do it on the beach. They don't come to the town dressed like that. You must have a sense of understanding of the culture of the place and country that you go and behave accordingly," Mr Alphons told NDTV in an exclusive interview.
Stressing that tourists must respect local traditions and go by what is acceptable, the minister said, "There are cities in Latin America where people walk around in bikinis. It's perfectly acceptable there. I have no problems with that. But when you come to a country, you must respect the culture and traditions of that place. I am not saying when you come to India wear a saree. No. You wear dresses that are acceptable".
Mr Alphons, who had said last year that foreign tourists can eat beef in their own country and then come to India, added that the list of dos for visiting foreigners excluded food.
"I am not saying you adopt Indian food habits. But there is a certain kind of behaviour that is acceptable. Whenever we go abroad, don't we behave in the manner they expect us to? We do."
Clarifying that he is a liberal who believes in the "right of the other person to do what he wants", Mr Alphons also talked of a "bottom line".
"I have the liberty to speak in a way but my liberty ends where your liberty begins. There are things that are considered acceptable in a country. Let us all learn to accept each other, respect each other," said Mr Alphons who was made a union minister last year.
The code of conduct applies to Indians as well who tend to be a little "noisy".
"In restaurants abroad, be it in France or Germany, there is etiquette that says your conversation, your laughter should be limited to your table. If you laugh or speak loudly, either you will be thrown out or the entire restaurant will stare at you," said Mr Alphons, a retired IAS officer of the 1979 batch.
In 1994, Mr Alphons featured in Time magazine's list of 100 Young Global Leaders. During his tenure as the commissioner of Delhi Development Authority's land commissioner, he was known as the "demolition man" for his drive to remove encroachments.
Asked what it felt like to be projected as the Christian face of the government, Mr Alphons said he never staked claim to anything for being Christian and wanted to be "approved for the work I do".
"In a democracy, giving representation to a community that has contributed so much in the field of education, healthcare and care of the oppressed is appropriate. That's what the Prime Minister and the party chief decided," he said.