Suspends use of blue number plates and flags by all honorary consuls
KATHMANDU, April 10: A day after the Honorary Consul of Kyrgyzstan to Nepal, Sulav Agrawal, was found misusing his position and privileges, the government has decided to withdraw the recognition granted to him as honorary consul and suspend various special privileges granted to all honorary consuls including the use of blue number plates and flags in official vehicles with immediate effect.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) on Wednesday wrote to the Kyrgyzstan government about its decision to strip Agrawal of his privileges as honorary consul after he was arrested on the charge of black marketing in medical equipment and sent to police custody on Tuesday.
Although there is no practice of allowing honorary consuls general or consuls to use blue number plated vehicles similar to the ones used by the members of diplomatic corps, a section of influential honorary consuls in Nepal back in 2007 had managed to influence the government to allow them to exercise such privileges along with other diplomatic immunities.
Senior officials at the MoFA said they were forced to review the decision as they have found evidences that several businesspersons are using their position and privileges to cover up their unscrupulous activities. "We are alarmed about the possible misuse of the position and privileges enjoyed by honorary consuls especially after this week's arrest of Agrawal," said an official, asking not to be named.
A cabinet meeting on June 19, 2007 had approved a proposal forwarded by MoFA to provide honorary consuls general and consuls special vehicle registration numbers with diplomatic privileges. The blue number plates given to them includes the letters HCC (short for honorary consular corps) and a number. Although a statement issued by the MoFA on Wednesday stated that these privileges were suspended until further notice, officials said that the ministry is less likely to resume the exclusive privileges.
Honorary consuls back in 2007 had maintained that it had been practically difficult for them to carry out their official tasks due to frequent general strikes and protest activities -- something very common in Kathmandu Valley during the first few years after the success of the April 2006 popular movement.
Accordingly, the 2007 cabinet decision had clearly stated that such privileges would be provided only within the Kathmandu Valley 'for the time being' and one consulate would be provided with just one such vehicle registration number. Such vehicles must also be used specifically for official work and while attending formal diplomatic ceremonies, as per the decision.
But in the following years, the honorary consuls not only used their blue-plated vehicles for their personal businesses but also outside the Kathmandu Valley and they also continued pressuring the political leadership not to scrap the privileges even after the political transition was over.
These privileges enjoyed by the honorary consuls prompted several other businessmen, some of them with controversial backgrounds as well, to secure honorary consul positions of little-known countries that have little or no interactions at all with Nepal. As such, the number of honorary consuls general and consuls that Nepal hosted from various 27 countries in 2007 has reached to 51 in 2020.
Former ambassador Pradyumna Bikram Shah said the privileges such as flag and blue plated vehicles that honorary consuls use in Nepal are not in practice in other countries and Vienna Conventions of neither 1961 or 1963 have mentions of such privileges for honorary consuls. Shah said they were able to secure such privileges by using their personal political connections.
Experts believe that the government's failure to implement a strict eligibility criteria for honorary consuls has abetted anomalies. "An honorary consul is supposed to be a reputed persons in his field with high-level political contacts in the sending states and those with ability and connections to facilitate high-level visits between the two countries and promote trade and business interactions. It is important now to see what contribution these people made to the country when the government makes any new decisions about the Honorary Consuls," said former ambassador Dinesh Bhattarai, who also served as foreign relations advisor to former prime ministers Sushil Koirala and Sher Bahadur Deuba.