The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Senegal to recall Delhi envoy

New Delhi, May 29: Senegal has decided to recall its ambassador Mansoor Diop and assured India that the envoy’s son, Mansoor Ali, would face trial in Dakar if charges of his alleged involvement in his father’s driver’s death last week are found to be true.

The African nation’s sharp and prompt response has taken the foreign ministry by surprise. But under the circumstances, sources say, it is perhaps the best solution Senegal could offer to end the controversy involving Diop, the longest-serving diplomat in India and the dean of the diplomatic corps here.

“It is too strong a reaction to something which even in India is not being seen as a very serious crime,” a foreign ministry official said.

The official argued that even if Ali had been involved in his driver’s death, indications so far pointed to an accident.

“Even the police have registered a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder,” he added.

Ali is said to have quarrelled with his father’s Indian driver, Dilawar, last Saturday over car keys. In the fight that followed, the driver’s head struck a hard object. The 32-year-old was declared “brought dead” when he was taken to the Ram Manohar Lohia hospital here.

Senegal’s reaction may have been a fallout of the tension brewing between Diop and the government in Dakar and indicates the extent the veteran diplomat has irked the foreign office there.

It also shows how President Abdoulae Wade’s regime, which has not been very happy with Diop’s role in India, took full advantage of the opportunity to recall him.

Diop has been Senegal’s ambassador to India since 1988. Sources said his connection with a powerful and influential religious family in Senegal had made it difficult for the government in Dakar to get him replaced.

Under the Vienna Convention, a serving diplomat and his immediate family are given diplomatic cover and cannot be interrogated or arrested for any crime they may have committed during the envoy’s posting in a foreign country. They can be interrogated and tried only after the diplomatic cover is removed.

South Block had requested Senegal to remove Ali’s diplomatic cover so that Delhi police could interrogate him. Though informally it had also suggested to Dakar that the envoy could be recalled, the foreign ministry did not expect so prompt a response.

“Even if they were to recall him, they could have done it later when the dust had settled down a bit,” said an official.

As far as Senegal is concerned, Delhi is an important posting. India is Senegal’s second-largest export destination after France. It is one of India’s main suppliers of phosphoric acid and phosphates.

President Wade is due to come to India on an official visit towards the end of this year and Dakar’s decision may also be an attempt to ensure that any irritant that stands in the way of bilateral relations are removed before the trip.

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