NEW DELHI:Within a year after India announced a new ambassador to the Czech Republic, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is seeking applicants for the post again after the envoy-designate refused to go as her mother was not granted a dependent visa.
On May 23 last year, the MEA announced that 1988-batch Indian Foreign Service officer Renu Pall had been appointed as the next Indian ambassador to Prague. “She is expected to take up her assignment shortly,” the press release stated. Pall, who was then the joint secretary in charge of India’s relations with ASEAN, never joined. A few weeks ago, the ministry again circulated that availability of the post.
Pall, who is unmarried, wanted to take her mother along. “The Czechs refused to grant a dependent visa for her mother even when it was argued that she would be acting as the official hostess for diplomatic functions,” says a senior official.
Czech officials read out the legal line that their definition of dependent visas—with its accompanying diplomatic immunity—was limited to partners and could not be extended to other family members.
There was also another wrinkle of complication when the Czechs insisted that a separate health insurance would have to be taken for Pall’s mother. The official adds that government of India’s “policy allows for a mother’s health insurance to be part of the employee’s. But, this was also not allowed, which added another complication”.
Meanwhile, as talks went on to resolve the matter, it impacted a queue of postings. Pall’s successor-designate was first Vani Rao (1994 IFS), but she moved on to deputation at the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs. By the end of 2014, Pooja Kapur (1996 IFS) had taken over as the new joint secretary (ASEAN multilateral).
Meanwhile in Prague, the chair of the ambassador has been empty for the past eight months. The previous occupier, V Ashok (1982 IFS), left the Czech Republic for his next job as Consul General in San Francisco in September 2014. Incidentally, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar is a former ambassador to the Czech Republic, having been posted there from 2000 to 2004.
Finally, with no sign of the Czech government relenting on the visa, Pall formally intimated the MEA that she will not be going to Prague about a month ago. “After so much delay, I am sure there must an element of mental fatigue when you are not able to take up your position. So, this refusal is not surprising,” said a senior MEA official.
However, there is not much impact expected on India-Czech relations, with officials claiming that Prague is bound to follow their own rules. “But it effectively means that the next Indian ambassador has to be either married or if single, can only go alone,” says an official.