Nepali embassy institutes online provisions for no-objection certificate, but public laments it as too little, too lateAs the requirement has helped curb human trafficking, no steps have been taken to lift the provision, say officials
A year has elapsed since India’s Ministry of Home Affairs issued a guideline asking Nepalis to obtain a non-objection certificate from the Nepal government before travelling to third countries via India, but the government remains unable to adequately communicate the new provisions to Nepalis travelling via India, leading to much frustration and anger among travellers.
Officials in Kathmandu and New Delhi said they have introduced online services, in addition to in-person applications, to obtain the no-objection certificate from the Nepali Embassy in New Delhi, but many believe that this decision is too little, too late.
After a massive surge in the number of Nepalis going abroad illegally, the Nepali government, through a ministerial level decision in 2009, had prohibited citizens holding general passports from flying to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Lebanon.
The Nepali Embassy in New Delhi had accordingly written to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, and airport authorities, requesting them to not allow Nepalis to fly to these nine countries out of Indian airports without a no-objection certificate from the embassy. But last year, Indian authorities made it mandatory for all Nepalis flying via Indian airports to obtain the certificate, causing great discomfort to Nepali nationals. The rationale behind the mandatory provision was purportedly to curb human trafficking.
Since Nepali authorities had failed to communicate the new mandatory provisions to its citizens, many Nepalis were forced to reschedule travel plans and faced unnecessary hassles at Indian airports.
Following the Post’s report on the hassles Nepalis were facing at Indian airports, the Nepali Embassy in New Delhi finally issued a public notice on Tuesday—for the first time since India announced the requirement in 2018.
Foreign Secretary Shanker Das Bairagi said there was some initial confusion but after inter-ministerial consultations, the Foreign Ministry has decided to issue another notice in Kathmandu.
“We will take up the issue with the Indian side to simplify it,” said Bairagi. “Second, we will also issue a notice or circular in Kathmandu asking Nepalis to get a no-objection certificate from the Nepali Embassy in New Delhi if someone is going through the Indian immigration.”
Following its statement this week, the Nepali Embassy in New Delhi has asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to circulate the notice to the masses, including the media, even as thousands of Nepali citizens continue to cancel their connecting flights due to a lack of information about the no-objection certificate.
This mandatory requirement, however, has led the public, along with a number of experts, to question the rationale behind this decision.
“Nepal should request India to remove the practice of seeking ‘no objection letter’ from the Nepali Embassy for Nepali passengers flying to the third countries via New Delhi for whatever reasons the measure was introduced, it is disgraceful for Nepalis traveling via New Delhi!!” former Foreign Secretary Madhu Raman Acharya wrote on Twitter.
Officials in Kathmandu said that Nepalis who need to urgently fly to third countries via India—Nepalis working or studying in India, those visiting relatives, and Nepali businesspeople on hectic schedules—are suffering needlessly.
However, two Nepali officials, who are directly involved in handling this issue, said that Nepalis choose to fly from India either due to cheap airfare or for trafficking reasons.
“In most cases, genuine visitors use the Kathmandu airport. Some may have work or business in India and use Indian airports to fly to third country while others choose India for cheap airfare. But most choosing to fly from India are under the trafficking net,” the Nepali officials said.
Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali also believes that the mandatory imposition of the certificate has helped reduce trafficking through Indian airports.
“After the certificate was made mandatory, there has been a significant reduction in human trafficking to countries via India,” Gyawali told the Post.
However, Gyawali said that the regulation has forced traffickers to use other means, including taking Nepalis to Gulf countries on land routes via Manipur to Myanmar to avoid Indian airports.
Others say that the regulation has not stopped trafficking but has only served to humiliate Nepali travellers. Former diplomat Madhuban Poudel said that the aim was to stop the trafficking of workers via India, but the regulation had only encouraged immigration authorities in New Delhi to humiliate Nepalis.
But Hari Odari, spokesperson for the Nepali Embassy in New Delhi, said that the embassy has not received any complaints of harassment of Nepalis at Indian immigration.
“We have received complaints that Nepalis were not aware of the mandatory provision, but we have not received any complaints that Indian immigration officials harassed Nepali citizens at Indian airports,” said Odari. “We will certainly take up the issue with the Indian side if someone comes to us with concrete evidence of the nature of harassment.”
The embassy has been issuing an average of 30-35 certificates daily to Nepali nationals travelling to third countries via India, said Odari.
But many Nepalis who have had to return from Indian airports have complained of financial losses and last minute panic due to negligence on the part of the Foreign Ministry and the embassy in New Delhi.
Despite these issues, officials say that they have not reached a conclusion on whether to ask for a lifting of the mandatory ‘no-objection certificate’, as it has helped to limit human trafficking.
“Since the provision has greatly contributed to taming human trafficking, we have not taken up the matter with the Indian authorities yet,” said Odari. “But there is a need to improve the process so we decided to accept applications online. We are also going to speak with Indian authorities on how to make the provision hassle-free.”
For the first time, India has also made it mandatory for its own citizens to acquire a ‘no-objection’ certificate before flying to any third country from Nepal. This regulation, however, applies only to those Indians residing or working in Nepal and registered with the embassy in Kathmandu. Such Indian nationals should approach the embassy three working days prior to their departure, according to the website of the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu.