Riyadh a Tale of No Ambassador

A few phone calls and queries from persons who had read my first article: “Riyadh-A Tale of Two Ambassadors” published in the 385th issue of Weekly magazine and The Star (30 Jan – 5 Feb 2020) shook me out of the 2nd confinement lethargy.

I realised that the curiosity of many people arose from the drama which was played in Parliament on 30th March regarding a Parliamentary Question on the status of Ambassador Soodhun.

My reaction to the various questions put was that there was a confusion created a week earlier, but records were set straight in a press communiqué from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And that, as an outsider, I cannot react to a political situation which is evolving.

Being no politician I refrain to be drawn in uncharted territory.

The main theme of my 1st article centered around the fact that more than 50 years after independence Mauritius failed to conduct a seamless transfer of Ambassadors, and how we got two Ambassadors in the Saudi Capital at a particular point in time, making us the laughing stock of the Diplomatic community. I do not blame the officials of the Ministry, who are well versed in such routine. Had they been overruled by their political master(s)? They know best.

In December 2019 we had a new Foreign Minister who has always held high the reputation of our institutions and he is personally committed to high standards. A lawyer by profession would not like to tarnish the image of Mauritius internationally, and be in breach of International law, protocol and practice.

So, who was it who made our president (who is from legal background) sign two letters called credentials, allowing Ambassador Soodhun to proceed and present his  credentials while his predecessor was still in post in Riyadh.

Within a year of Mauritius having two Ambassadors in Riyadh (Jan 2020) we are now with no Ambassador in Riyadh. Seems things evolved very quickly, and the Ministry has to do its own critical analysis of a unique situation. As things are unfolding the secrecy around Ambassador Soodhun’s return to Mauritius and his new status are giving rise to a host of genuine questions and speculations.

Mr Soodhun was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and plenipotentiary of Mauritius to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with Residence in Riyadh.  Agrément of the government of Saudi Arabia was obtained to that effect. The Letter of credential must also have stated that Ambassador Soodhun would reside in Riyadh.

If he has been recalled to his country, which any government can do, there must have been valid reasons. This is a normal procedure. In such a case the sending state informs the receiving state that Mr Soodhun will be required elsewhere and that in due course a successor will be appointed.

If an ambassador is recalled and no successor is appointed, in the Diplomatic world it is interpreted as a straining of relation and downgrading of representation.

The confusion is arising as to whether the government wants to downgrade our representation due to non-reciprocity. We then open a Consulate General as the Saudi government has in Mauritius. This is a way to show our displeasure—which is accepted in international Diplomatic relationship. If Ambassador Soodhun has been recalled on this basis it means that he failed in his remit to get our Saudi friends to upgrade their representation.

If we have informed the government of Saudi Arabia that we are appointing a Charge d’affaires Ad Interim means a new Ambassador will be appointed.

Ambassador Soodhun was received as a Resident Ambassador in Saudi Arabia. This has been agreed between two countries. If the sending government decides to recall or relocate his Ambassador then due process must have been undertaken by Mauritius.

Our Ministry of Foreign Affairs must have acted accordingly and must have assured the receiving state that the recall (?) or relocation of our Ambassador should not in any way be interpreted as a gesture of our displeasure, and that we value the existing ties between the two countries.

If we have not completed the due process we are in breach of a bilateral agreement. If we maintain the same Ambassador and inform the receiving state that he will now assume roving role and based at Headquarters, this will be interpreted by the diplomatic community that Mauritius will in due course close its Embassy in Riyadh. The Saudi Arabian government may refrain to give its Agrément to the same person in a roving capacity.

An Ambassador may be recalled either by his government or at the request of the receiving state, due to various reasons; hostile and unfriendly acts, derogatory remarks, undiplomatic behavior, flouting or abusing of immunity and priviledges etc. In most instances the matter is dealt orally at very high level.

Singapore has a well established practice of Roving Ambassadors. It cannot afford to open Missions in many countries. The Singaporean roving High Commissioner to Mauritius is based in Singapore and visits Mauritius at least once annually. Singapore has no Diplomatic Mission in Mauritius , but maintains Diplomatic relations.



Rhafic  Janhangeer