KATHMANDU: The involvement of an honorary consular in misusing a vehicle with special registration provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) has drawn the attention of a wide section of the society.
It should be recalled that Sulav Agrawal, the honorary consul of Kyrgyzstan in Nepal, was arrested red-handed on the charge of black marketing thermal scanners during lockdown in his vehicle bearing special number 209-HCC-1 on April 7 in Kathmandu.
The other day, the Government of Nepal decided to withdraw the facilities and privileges provided to the honorary consuls in Nepal – something which the honorary consuls are disenchanted with the decision.
Observers, meanwhile, say the government should not have put all honorary consuls in the same basket.
“We honor the government’s action and decision,” says Pradeep Kumar Shrestha, Dean of the Honorary Consular Corps — Nepal (HCC-N) while nitpicking the government’s decision of disconcerting all other honorary consuls.
“The government should not have generalized the issue because of an act of a single individual,” Shrestha told Khabarhub while recalling the contribution made by the honorary consuls during hard times, particularly in the devastating earthquake of 2015 or during other natural calamities.
The honorary consular, Shrestha said, have been playing very important role for both the sending and receiving countries. Several of them have also represented the diplomatic missions of the respective countries, he added.
“Moreover, they have supported the governments of both sending and receiving countries on several bilateral issues,” he said adding, “What should not be forgotten is that the Honorary Consuls, too, have extended their unconditional support in repatriating citizens of various countries during the current lockdown.”
Observers have to note that the Honorary Consuls have contributed in bridging the sending and receiving countries and making contribution in social and economic development.
“There are instances of a couple of lawmakers misusing red passports. However, not all lawmakers’ facilities have been stripped off,” an honorary consular told insisting anonymity questioning, “How could the government forget the contribution made by honorary consuls during hard times?”
Gyan Chandra Acharya, former United Nations Under-Secretary-General, and former Foreign Secretary says, “I criticize the recent misuse of the position and privilege of the Honorary Consul, especially at a time of devastating crisis. The relevant legal process should be followed through.”
He, however, adds, “But, it should also be noted that many honorary consuls in Nepal have contributed to building a bridge between Nepal and these countries through their dedicated, legitimate and promotional work.”
The entire episode came to the fore after the honorary consul and industrialist Agrawal was found misusing the vehicle with special registration provided by MoFA.
Consular diplomacy, which has emerged as a significant component of diplomatic power, has an increased importance in the globalized world and its economy.
In this regard, Honorary Consuls have a significant role to play when it comes to contributing to bilateral relations between two countries by extending their network for consular coverage, and increasingly important role in terms of business and commerce.
Former Foreign Minister and Nepali Congress central member, Dr Prakash Saran Mahat, too, argues that the government should not have put everyone in the same basket in the name of taking action against one individual.
“The government should not spare anyone who abuses the diplomatic facilities or breaks the law,” Dr Mahat told Khabarhub, adding, “It is also not necessary to withdraw the facilities and privileges provided to other honorary consuls simply because one honorary consul misused his position and the facilities.”
Honorary consuls, recognized under the international law by the Vienna Convention, is part of modern diplomacy that goes far beyond the confines of relations between two governments or states as it incorporates and involves the citizens of the countries.
Likewise, former Ambassador Shambhu Ram Simkhada labels Agrawal’s act as deceitful at a time when the country is reeling under crisis. “The government should take action against people misusing their authorities and facilities,” he said, however, adding that the government should not have made other honorary consular to pay the price. “Generalizing the issue is not the solution,” he said.
The Vienna Convention gives all consuls an equal authority, however, each government or a state assigns to its own widely different responsibilities.
They have particularly two major tasks — to officially develop commercial, economic, cultural and scientific relations between the countries they represent and the area in which they serve, as well as to safeguard the interests of the sending countries and their citizens.
The cabinet had on June 2007 approved a proposal of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to provide diplomatic privileges, including special vehicle registration numbers to the honorary consuls.