First anniversary of envoys presenting credentials online

Covid-19 – a pandemic of epic proportions – has its silver linings too, even though it is not normally associated with positive stories. There have been human stories of altruism, stories of businesses reinventing themselves and several others amidst the global pandemic. 8 July 2021 marks the first anniversary of such a story from India.

The pandemic forced the world to adapt to the new-normal in both professional as well as personal spheres. The world of diplomacy and diplomatic practices was no exception. Protocol and conventions are synonymous with diplomacy. Presentation of credentials is one such convention. “Credential” – Letter of Credence – is a stamp of authority issued to newly appointed Ambassadors and High Commissioners by Heads of State for presentation to the Head of State of the receiving country. Such a presentation is usually done soon after the arrival of envoys in the receiving country and they are not permitted to discharge their official responsibilities before the credential presentation ceremony.

As the pandemic rendered the physical conduct of these ceremonies impossible, new means had to be invented. The most logical approach was to conduct this virtually. The first such ceremony in India was held on 8 July 2020 when President of India Ram Nath Kovind received the credentials of newly appointed envoys from the UK, New Zealand, and Uzbekistan.

Seven more such ceremonies have been held in India since then, with the latest one being held before the first anniversary of virtual presentation of credentials in India. Close to 30 resident Heads of Mission in India cutting across continents and geographies such as Australia, Afghanistan, Dominican Republic, Tunisia, Hungary, Argentina etc. have presented their credentials through virtual mode till date.

As online presentation of credentials is becoming the order of the day in diplomacy, High Commissioner of India in Colombo Gopal Baglay had also presented his credentials virtually to President of Sri Lanka Gotabaya Rajapaksa a week after his arrival from India last year on a cargo flight carrying tonnes of essential medical supplies in a show of support to Sri Lanka in the joint fight against the pandemic.