Most Common Diplomatic Terminologies

    1. Agrement

    Agrement is the formal agreement by a receiving state to accept a named individual as head of a diplomatic mission. As a part of diplomatic courtesy, before a state appoints a new chief of mission to represent it in another state, it must be first ascertained whether the appointee is acceptable to the receiving state.

    Though it is unusual for an appointee to be refused it occasionally happens. If the receiving state acquiesces the proposed person, it grants the agrement.

    2. Attache

    Attache is a certain member of a diplomatic mission. They are junior members in diplomatic services. An attache is a person on the staff of an ambassador having a specialized area of responsibility. Nepal has given the title of ‘military attache’ to the representative of the Nepalese army in Nepalese diplomatic missions abroad.

    3. Asylum

    Asylum, in diplomacy, means the giving of refuge in two senses: first, within the extraterritorial grounds of an embassy; second, when a state allows someone to live within its borders, out of reach of the authority of a second state from which the person seeks protection.

    When a political refugee seeks shelter either in the territory of a foreign state or in the compound of the premises of the diplomatic mission, he/she is said to have sought asylum. If protection is granted to the refugee, such a person becomes immune from the process of law of the state to which he/she belongs.

    4. Buffer State

    Buffer state is a geopolitical term often associated with the balance of power. It refers to small or weak states which exist on the borders of powerful states. For the powerful states, buffer states serve as crush zones.

    Before the advent of air power, buffer states were seen as insurance against direct and surprise hostilities between great powers. For example, Afghanistan and Thailand were the crush zones that could absorb and delay Russian and French penetration into British India in the late 19th century.

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    5. Charge d’ Affaires a.i. (ad interim)

    A Charge d’ Affaires is a diplomat who serves as an embassy’s chief of mission in the absence of the ambassador. This French term means ‘charged with business’ meaning they are responsible for the duties of an ambassador.

    A Charge enjoys the same privileges and immunities as an ambassador under international law. However, they are outranked by ambassador and have lower precedence at formal diplomatic events.

    In most cases, a diplomat serves as a charge d’ affaire on a temporary basis in the absence of the ambassador but in unusual situations, a charge d’ affaire may be appointed for an indefinite period.

    6. Communique

    Communique is a brief public summary statement issued following important bilateral or multilateral meetings. It is an official announcement or statement, especially one made to the media. It is typically issued after a high-level meeting of international leaders.

    7. Aide Memoire

    Aide-Memoire is a written summary of the key points made by a diplomat in an official conversation. It is a document circulated among delegations, either at the time of the conversation or subsequently as an aid to memory.

    8. Diplomatic Corps

    Diplomatic corps refers to the collective body of foreign diplomats accredited to the same country or government. This group is presided over by the doyen (dean) who is generally the head of the most important mission and with the longest accreditation in the country.

    As a body, they normally assemble only to attend state functions like coronation, inauguration, national day, etc. The cars and other vehicles of such diplomatic missions often will have numberplates with the prefix or suffix CD which indicates that they belong to diplomatic missions.

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    9. Diplomatic Bag

    All incoming and outgoing diplomatic dispatches, letters and correspondences between Ministry of Foreign Affairs and missions abroad are usually enclosed in a sealed bag which is called a diplomatic bag. As per the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961, such diplomatic bags should not be opened or detained.

    The diplomatic bag must bear visible address of both ends and must contain only official documents or articles. This bag enjoys diplomatic immunity and privileges and cannot be delayed within transit.

    10. Excellency

    ‘Excellency’ is an archaic but still much used title for addressing an ambassador. Nowadays, people addressed as ‘Excellency’ are heads of state, heads of government, high ranking officials and so on.

    11. Letters of Credence/Credentials

    Letter of credence/credential is given to an ambassador by his/her head of state and addressed to the head of state of his/her host country. Such letters are delivered to the head of state of the host country by the ambassador in a formal credential’s ceremony, which generally takes place shortly after his/her arrival at a new post.

    Until this ceremony has taken place, he/she is not formally recognized by the host country, and he/she cannot officially act as an ambassador. A credential should include the name, titles, the specific purpose and the general aim of the ambassador’s mission.

    12. Letter of Recall

    A letter of recall is the formal correspondence from one head of state notifying a second head of state that he/she is recalling his/her state’s ambassador. This is often presented by a new ambassador on behalf of his/her head of state, with their letter of credence, to the head of their host country during credential presentation ceremony.

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    13. Persona non Grata

    Persona non Grata is a person who is declared as a person unacceptable by the receiving state. This may occur at the initial stage of appointment or sometime after the granting of persona grata when the diplomat concerned has violated the rules of normal diplomatic behavior.

    The declaration of persona non grata involves expulsion or at least a request that the diplomat be recalled to his/her country of origin. The receiving state may at any moment and without explanation inform the sending state that the head or any member of its diplomatic mission has been deemed persona non grata.

    If the sending state doesn’t recall such person, the host state has the right to expel the individual in question.

    14. Protocol

    Protocol is the official procedure or system of rules governing affairs of state or diplomatic occasions. Nowadays, the term ‘protocol’ is universally employed as a generic term for diplomatic etiquette and rules of procedure.

    15. Status Quo

    Latin term ‘status quo’ means the present, current, existing state of affairs. To maintain the status is to keep the things the way they currently are. Preservation of status quo is usually done in the context of opposing a large often radical change.

    16. RSVP

    RSVP is an initialism of the French phrase ‘Respondez s’il vous plait’ which means ‘respond if you please’. This is a request for confirmation of an invitation. If the guest is attending the given invitation, he/she is not required to RSVP.

    17. Plenipotentiary

    Plenipotentiary is a person, especially a diplomat, invested with the full power of independent action on behalf of their government, typically in a foreign country. Plenipotentiary simply means possessed of full power to do an ambassador’s normal job.


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