Dean of the Diplomatic Corps Frank Hans Dannenberg Castellanos on Wednesday said the demonetisation drive and subsequent curbs on cash withdrawals were in violation of the Vienna Convention. Castellanos warned that many countries may reciprocate similar measures against Indian missions abroad. “There might be governments who are already studying the possibility of reciprocating through Indian diplomats in their countries,” said the dean of diplomatic corps that represents 157 foreign missions in India.
He said all the embassies were facing difficulties in carrying out their day-to-day activities, paying casual labourers and hosting delegations. “I am giving you consensus of the problems of all my colleagues. I am giving consensus of 157 missions,” The New Indian Express quoted him as saying.
The ambassador of the Dominican Republic also urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and resolve the issue soon. He said that the “buck stops” at Modi’s door. Castellanos added that he had already written letters to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and the chief of protocol to relax restrictions on withdrawal of money from banks. The Reserve Bank of India had set a Rs 50,000 cap on weekly withdrawals and the dean of diplomatic corps said it was not enough and must be lifted, reported The Indian Express. Castellanos cited the Vienna Convention and said that foreign diplomats “cannot be restricted in accessing our funds”.
On December 2, the foreign missions of Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia and Sudan had sent letters to the Centre protesting against the cash withdrawal restrictions that are part of its demonetisation drive. Russian ambassador Alexander Kadakin said the restrictions had severely affected the New Delhi embassy’s functioning as the withdrawal limit was not even enough to “pay for a decent dinner in a restaurant”.
Earlier, Pakistan had alleged that diplomats in its High Commission in Delhi were not allowed to withdraw their salaries from the bank and claimed it was a violation of the Vienna convention. On November 4, India refuted the allegations and said that while the matter “had nothing to do with the government”, it had been resolved.
Since demonetisation, there has been an increased demand for dollars and other foreign currency. On November 8, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes will not be legal tender anymore.