Diplomacy is one of the instruments with the help of which countries implement their foreign policy and maintain relations with one another. They send diplomatic missions to represent and protect their interests in a foreign land. Consulate and the High Commission are one of the types of these diplomatic missions.
Consulate vs High Commission
The difference between High Commission and Consulate is that the High Commission is an embassy that is in operation only in Commonwealth countries and comprises of a ‘consular section’ and not a separate consulate. Conversely, the Consulate is the lesser version of an embassy that protects the interest of the nationals of its home country in a foreign land.
The High Commission is a form of an embassy that represents the interest of a Commonwealth country in another Commonwealth country. They are situated in the capital city of a Commonwealth country.
A Consulate is the lesser version of an embassy situated in the larger cities of a foreign country. They are particularly vested with the responsibility of protecting the interests of the nationals of their country in a foreign land.
Comparison Table Between Consulate and High Commission (in Tabular Form)
|Parameters of comparison||Consulate||Honorary Consulate|
|Persons appointed||Diplomats are appointed by the government or the senate of a state or territory.||Appointed directly by the foreign government, and are simply citizens of the host country or foreign nationals.|
|Purpose||The Consulate helps the citizens present in the host countries with issues of their residency.||They primarily help out the consuls, with things like enhancement of relations between the two countries.|
|Immunity||Consul generals have “consular immunity”, protecting them any offences related to their “consular duties”.||Honorary consul-generals are not given any form of immunity.|
|Remuneration||The officials appointed as consuls are diplomats of the country, so they are paid by the government.||The honorary consul members are not diplomats by career, so they are not paid by the government.|
|Powers||Can help the citizens with things such as issuing visas and issuing passports.||Cannot in any way or form issue visas or passports. Can only help build relations between the two countries.|
What is Consulate?
It is a type of diplomatic mission and the office of the Consuls that represents a lesser version of a country’s main diplomatic mission that is the Embassy in a foreign land. Consulates are usually situated in larger cities outside the capital city of the host country.
It is especially concerned with the protection of the interests of the citizens of the home country in a foreign land and performs a wide range of functions in this direction. Some of them are:
- Furnishing passports to nationals and visas to foreigners.
- Welfare and whereabouts related cases like making funeral arrangements and settling cases related to the estates of the nationals dying abroad.
- Providing aid and assistance to nationals who somehow run into conflict with local authorities or violate the laws of the host country.
- Involve in relief of seamen.
- Providing services to veterans and notarial services.
Some of the functions of the Consulate are related to the promotion of trade and business relations between the home and the host country. They are:
- Preparing periodical and special reports on the economic scenario of the host country.
- Sending replies to inquiries related to trade.
- Resolution of trade disputes.
- Certification of the invoices of goods shipped to the home country of the Consular officers.
- Implementation of the provisions of the Treaties of Trade and Commerce.
- Promotion and protection of shipping.
- Entrance and clearance of aircraft and ships and other duties related to international trade.
Under the rules and procedures established by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963, certain privileges and rights are provided to the Consuls so that they can perform their duties satisfactorily. These include exemption from direct taxes and customs duties of the host country.
Also, the Consulate with all its furnishings and archives is considered as a foreign territory and therefore cannot be violated by local officials, citizens and government. However, ultimately they are held to be subject to the laws of the host country.
What is High Commission?
A High Commission is a form of a diplomatic mission that is sent by a Commonwealth nation to represent and protect its interest in another Commonwealth country. The Commonwealth refers to a group of 53 countries that were a part of the erstwhile British Empire.
In terms of its powers and privileges, it is equivalent to an Embassy. However, it is more than an embassy because it contains within itself both diplomatic and consular functions. Also, it is more involved in the socio-political and economic activities of the host country than an embassy.
To implement the foreign policy and the national interest of its home country in another Commonwealth country, it performs the following functions:
- Establish networks with the leading politicians, bureaucrats, military personnel, intellectuals and citizens of the host country.
- Participate in bilateral, trilateral and multilateral negotiations to maintain a peaceful and cordial relation between and among the Commonwealth nations.
- Observe, analyze and send an unbiased report about the socio-political and economic scenario of the host country to the government of the country they represent so that the latter can study those reports and take foreign policy decisions accordingly.
- Organize seminars, exhibitions, tour etc. to promote the culture, education, trade and commerce and the like of the country they represent in the host country.
- Provide consular facilities to the foreigners and the nationals living or travelling to the host country.
Since 1948, a High Commission enjoys the same privileges and immunities that are enjoyed by an Embassy under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961.
These include exemptions from direct taxes and customs duties imposed by the host country, from the civil and criminal jurisdictions of the host country and the laws of the host country in general.
The personnel working in a High Commission and their families are personally inviolable. Also, the High Commission itself with all its archives and furnishings is treated as a part of foreign territory and therefore is immune to any kind of violations by the local government and officials.
Main Differences Between Consulate and High Commission
- The main difference between a High Commission and a Consulate is that the former is the equivalent of an embassy exchanged between Commonwealth countries. While the latter is the lesser version of an embassy gives protection and welfare-related services to the people of the home country who live or are travelling to the host country.
- Being the equivalent of an embassy, High Commissions are mainly situated in the capital city of the host country and contain within itself consular offices. Conversely, Consulates tends to be mainly located in larger cities that are outside the Capital city.
- A High Commissioner is vested with the responsibility of heading the High Commission. While a Consuls General is responsible for heading a Consulate.
- Other personnel who form a part of the High Commission include counsellors, secretaries who are often raked as first, second and third and attaches who may be junior career officers or non-career officers. In contrast to that, personnel like Consuls, vice consuls of career and non-career and consular agents work in a Consulate.
- Diplomats in a High Commission enjoy certain privileges and immunities like exemptions from the civil and criminal jurisdictions, direct taxes and customs duties of the host country. They, their staff and their families are personally inviolable. These immunities and privileges help them in discharging their duties without any hindrance. In contrast to that, the privileges and immunities of Consuls are not so profound. Normally, they are also exempted from the direct taxes and customs duties of the host country. But they can be summoned as a witness in civil cases. Overall, they are considered to be subject to the laws of the host country.
Both Consulate and the High Commission are one of the types of diplomatic missions sent by countries to protect their national interest by establishing peaceful relations with other countries. They perform the broader functions of diplomatic relations that involve reporting, negotiations and most importantly representation and protection of interests of the citizens of their home country in a foreign land.
However, they differ in terms of their structures, certain specialized functions they perform, the rights and privileges they enjoy and most importantly, the group of countries in which they serve.
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