With the second diplomatic enclave in south-west Delhi ready for moving in, the Ministry of External Affairs has called a meeting with embassies interested in escaping from the high rents in Delhi -- the first step in a long arduous negotiation over price rates and possibilities of diplomatic land swap.
Official sources said that the MEA’s protocol division had called the interested embassies for a meeting on June 26, to unveil the plans for the diplomatic enclave. It would also help garner feedback on the road ahead, with the embassies expected to provide their views, among other issues, on the size of the plots required and the modalities for transfer. The 70-acre plot diplomatic enclave had been identified by Delhi Development Authority in Dwarka phase-II since 2007, but the allotment had been delayed. Now, the ministry will have to grapple with the negotiations on transfer of the plot, as several countries would prefer to do a land swap of a similar size plot for Indian diplomatic properties in their capital.
In 2007, 39 countries had expressed interest in being allotted land at the second diplomatic enclave, since they didn’t have any place in Chanakyapuri. In recent years, there has been a spurt in the number of countries opening up their missions.
Now, there are about 50 embassies and high commissions working out rented properties, most of them from African and Latin American countries. South Sudan’s deputy chief of mission in India James P Morgan had a long search as he went through properties in Vasant Vihar and Anand Niketan for a suitable mission for the newly-created country. Finally, the South Sudan flag was flown from the top of a farm-house in the outer precincts of Delhi last year.
“We will be certainly interested in getting land to build an embassy,” he said.
The transaction, he hoped, would be a swap, rather than a purchase. He is of course not alone. But, for New Delhi, such a transaction does not make any sense, commercially. “Delhi’s land price rates are very high, compared to their capitals. Our policy is we buy, they buy,” said a senior government official.