Milinda Moragoda, Sri Lanka’s envoy designate to India, arrived in New Delhi this week, almost a year after he was confirmed by the Parliamentary High Posts Committee, to be the country’s High Commissioner. However, there appears to be still a delay before he is accepted by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi according to Sri Lanka’s Sunday Times newspaper.
The reason — he had submitted an ‘updated’ agrément (or a set of credentials) where he has referred to himself as High Commissioner holding “Cabinet rank,” despite an earlier rejection by New Delhi. India’s External Affairs Ministry has said the documents in that format cannot be forwarded to the President’s Office. Hence, it has asked for a fresh set of documents with no reference to “Cabinet rank” status. It is the Indian President who receives credentials of envoys to India.
In fact, when Moragoda’s original agrément was sent by the Foreign Ministry in Colombo to the External Affairs Ministry in New Delhi, it was sought to identify Moragoda as a High Commissioner enjoying “Cabinet rank.” Other than such a reference, even Foreign Ministry officials were unable to explain what that title meant except to point out that at least one envoy in New Delhi enjoying such a status vis-à-vis the envoy’s home country. A direct meaning would have been an implied request that he be treated by the host country with the courtesies afforded to that of a cabinet minister. Sri Lanka’s constitution makes no provision for such an appointment.
The Indian External Affairs Ministry informed Colombo that his credentials to serve as Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in New Delhi had been accepted without that proviso. A diplomatic source said the decision was made at the highest levels. In other words, New Delhi made clear the diplomatic posting was without a so-called cabinet rank whatever that meant. Since then, Moragoda’s appointment was embroiled in a controversy with questions over whether he would proceed to New Delhi. Indications emerged in the recent months due to a splurge of media publicity in the local media, not mostly in New Delhi, about what he proposed to do in the Indian capital.