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Foreign governments unhappy over cash crunch

An Indian vendor displays wallets made from replica prints of the demonetised 500 and 1000 INR currency notes prints for sale at a stall in Mumbai on November 22, 2016. India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on November 8 that that 500 and 1,000 rupee ($7.50, $15) bills -- 85 percent of the cash in circulation -- would cease to be legal tender in a crackdown on fraud and tax evasion. The move -- which saw the notes withdrawn from circulation just hours after the announcement -- was initially welcomed, but frustrations have mounted in the largely cash-reliant country where millions have been left without enough to cover their daily needs. / AFP PHOTO / INDRANIL MUKHERJEE

New Delhi:Anguished over restrictions on withdrawals by their embassies, many foreign governments are contemplating reciprocal measures against Indian missions abroad terming the measures as a “serious breach” of Vienna Convention.

In strong comments, Frank Hans Dannenberg Castellanos, Dean of Diplomatic Corps who represents the voice of 157 foreign missions here, said the “buck stops” at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s door and he should intervene to resolve the issue soon.

“The fact that we cannot access our own funds in our bank accounts is a serious breach of Vienna convention and international diplomatic principles. This is the main constraint of a lot of ambassadors,” he said adding the Rs 50,000 a week cap on withdrawal must be lifted.

Castellanos, Ambassador of the Dominican Republic, said a number of embassies upset by India’s restrictions were studying the possibility of “reciprocating” similar steps against Indian diplomats in their countries.

At the same time, he hoped the issue will be resolved soon and that such action by foreign governments will not be required.

“I am not saying all governments will do that but there might be governments who are already studying the possibility of raciprocating through Indian diplomats in their countries,” Castellanos told PTI.

He said he was just expressing the concensus view of 157 missions and their disappointment over government’s lack of response.

He said had written a letter to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and the Chief of Protocol expressing concern over the restrictions on withdrwal of funds in the wake of the demonetisation drive.

“I think at the end of the day the buck stops at his (PM) door.. He is the one who has to decide whether diplomats will have the ability to withdraw bigger amounts from their accounts,” said the Dean of Diplomatic Corps. .