Foreign Affairs Ministry to write to Kyrgyzstan about Agrawal’s arrest

Withdraws certain facilities and privileges provided to honorary consuls in the country until further notice

Kathmandu, April 9

After police arrested Nepali businessman Sulav Agrawal, who also happened to be the honorary consul of Kyrgyzstan in Nepal, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has decided to write to the Kyrgyzstan government that Agrawal is no more eligible to hold the post.

“He will no longer hold the post now,” said a MoFA source. Police on Tuesday arrested Agrawal on the charge of black-marketing infrared thermometers, used to measuring body temperature from a short distance amid its high demand in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic. He had transported 67 thermal guns to Bal Mandir premises at Naxal, from where he was held, in a vehicle with diplomatic number plate provided by the Government of Nepal.

The Ministry has already decided to withdraw certain facilities and privileges provided to all honorary consuls based in Nepal. “As per the decision of the ministry, the privilege of using blue plate and flag in the official vehicles of honorary consuls has been suspended with immediate effect until further notice,” read the ministry’s statement issued last evening.

According to the latest diplomatic list published by the MoFA in March, there are a total of 51 Nepal-based honorary consuls of various countries. Nepal-based honorary consuls have long been criticised for misusing diplomatic privileges for their personal benefits, although the government offers facilities such as diplomatic immunity to them only for official purpose. “In Nepal, there’s a trend of becoming honorary consul just to boost social status. Once a person becomes an honorary consul, they are invited to various receptions and gatherings organised by diplomatic missions. That way, they get to socialise with high-profile people from across the world,” said foreign affairs expert Dinesh Bhattarai.

If a country wants to appoint an honorary consul in Nepal, the particular country has to first apply to the Ministry of Foreign affairs stating why they have chosen a particular person for the post. After conducting a study, the ministry then issues its approval. This is the same process for the appointment of Nepal’s honorary consuls in foreign countries.

Bhattarai says this is where the government needs to be careful. There are certain criteria for the appointment of honorary consuls, such as a prospective candidate has to have earned high reputation in their respective fields or have made immense contributions to society. “However, consul requests are generally approved in Nepal on the basis of  how close a person is with the authority that issues approval,” said Bhattarai. “The government has to have rigorous policies.” Generally, facilities to honorary consuls are offered on the basis of reciprocity. This means if a country offers certain facilities to Nepal’s honorary consul based there, Nepal also generally offers the same facilities to consuls of that particular country based in Nepal. The idea is to boost bilateral ties. “But we also need effective monitoring. Lax monitoring will result in incidents  like the recent arrest,” said Bhattarai.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on April 10, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.