New Delhi: Under pressure from diplomatic missions facing a cash crunch due to demonetisation, foreign secretary S. Jaishankar on Thursday met the Dean of Diplomatic Corp and informed him that banks are being instructed to allow diplomats to withdraw money on priority.
During the meeting with Dean Frank Hans Dannenberg Castellanos, Jaishankar also assured him that the ministry of external affairs will look into the basic demand of increased limit for cash withdrawal by the embassies and take it up with the finance ministry, MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup said. “Let’s see which all concerns are readily addressable,” he said.
The meeting came a day after Castellanos, who as Dean represents the voice of 157 foreign missions, said many nations were contemplating reciprocal measures against Indian missions abroad after a Rs50,000 a week withdrawal cap was fixed for embassies. He had termed the measure a “serious breach” of the Vienna Convention. Maintaining that the “buck stops” at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s door, he had sought his intervention to resolve the issue soon.
The Russian embassy in New Delhi as well as several other missions had voiced their serious concern to the government over the restrictions on cash withdrawal and threatened to take retaliatory action against Indian diplomats posted in their countries. Russian ambassador Alexander Kadakin had gone public with protest.
Noting that the ministry has received communications from some embassies about the problems they face in the context of the demonetisation of old high-value notes, Swarup said, “The Foreign Secretary has met the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps today. They had a very detailed discussion on the issues raised by foreign missions and how best to address them... We gave them a very sympathetic hearing.”
With a view to avoiding inconveniencing them, the MEA has been in discussion with the authorities concerned in the government on this matter and “the finance ministry, as a consequence, is being asked to issue directives to banks to allow embassy officials with identity cards to withdraw money on a priority basis”.
During the meeting, the Dean also asked for raising the limit of weekly cash withdrawal from the existing Rs50,000 for embassies, Swarup said, adding, “we have agreed to look into that request and take it up with the finance ministry and see what can be done.” When contacted, Castellanos, ambassador of the Dominican Republic, expressed satisfaction over the meeting.
“Although we are waiting for a formal response to the issues brought up by the diplomatic community, I personally feel very positive and I am very pleased by the time and effort taken by the MEA to listen in detail to all the concerns of my colleagues,” he said.