Monday, March 18, 2013

Let's not blame diplomats alone if India gets kicked around internationally

CHALLENGING TIME: Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai
WHEN BJP leader Arun Jaitley said in Parliament recently that India was getting “kicked around” internationally, there were gossips in corridors how IFS officers live a good life in New York, London and Paris, make lots of money, drink whisky all day, and do parties at night. But such a perception has proved…
costly for the growth of Indian career diplomats in a fast-changing 21st century world. Influenced by such misplaced thoughts and often directed by the IAS lobby, India’s policy-makers have always failed to acknowledge the harsh reality that IFS is still a skeleton cadre in comparison with China’s huge brigade of 6,000 and US’ 12,000 foreign service officers. New Delhi in-principle has agreed to double its current IFS cadre of 800, but the files have moved rather slowly. It’s however not just the number that’s a hiccup for Indian career diplomats.
First, let’s examine in what context Leader of Opposition Jaitley made his observation in Parliament. This is what he said: “Whether it is Islamabad, Male or Rome, I think we seriously need to discuss our foreign policy and where it is leading us because if Indian can be kicked around in this manner internationally then there is something seriously wrong with the manner in which external affairs is run”. Of late, India’s external affairs has run into turbulence as its neighbours like Sri Lanka and Maldives have humiliated New Delhi, and Italy, hitherto a friendly country, has behaved like an enemy nation. So, why can’t diplomats be blamed for such an unwanted situation?
Here are a few counter-points. It’s not something new that India has goofed up its subcontinent policies. In recent times, India’s relations with Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar have rather improved though Maldives is going out of its clout. In fact, Bhutan is the only neighbour with whom India has retained quality friendship for decades now.
Secondly, there has been an over-emphasis on economic diplomacy during the last few years, forcing career diplomats to shift focus and even compromise on core philosophy of diplomacy.
Also, the over-zealous commerce ministry’s move to create more and more economic posts, mainly for IAS, has sent the career diplomats into a tizzy. Already, there are 65 economic missions around the world, and files for creating more such non-IFS posts are on circulation. Won’t the character of India’s diplomacy change if the number of IFS officers remains stagnant whereas IAS-led foreign economic brigade gets strengthened?
And even if the government decides to create more IFS posts, the question will arise how those will actually be filled up? Will UPSC take any special exam to recruit a large number of foreign service officers at one go? Or will the government bend its rules and recruit mid-career officers at lateral level? There are more questions than answers now.


  1. Wow photo of Mathai. But should we say diplomats have not failed? More introspection needed.

  2. Why not merege the two services .ie. IAS and IFS and create just one which is in the art 312 for a better coordinatuion and for keeping the best foot forward by tapping a lage pool of officers who may be too good to hold diplomatic posts.
    it would be a win -win for both the services and most important in the larger interest of our country.
    We have experienced how our director at LBSNAA could to tapped to represent our country abroad, but just because he couldn't get into IFs in his time is confined and same is the case with many IFs officers to name a few like HE Mulay indian high commissioner who could be a good administrator in which ever state he is posted. Think over it.

    1. What an idea sirji (IAS officer ji). The only area where IAS have not been able to assert and invade till now is foreign diplomat postings. Ofcourse some IAS officers do go abroad by satisfying their political masters. Lets think of the above idea. If you merge IAS and IFS there will be one service which invariably will be called IAS. There wont be any IFS. Presently every year around 150 IAS and 20 IFS are recruited. So,the new service will be old wine in a new bottle. The IAS will start occupying all the diplomatic posts along with all the top posts they have been occupying right now. That will be an all powerful and all embracing service. It can then be called IGS (Indian God Service). Anyway the IAS is now Indian Avatar Service. It is the time of specialization and you want to create a much more general service than the present IAS. IFS guys be wary of this cunning suggestion. You will be trampled mercilessly. A specialized diplomatic service is necessary and it should actually be strengthened. The strength of IFS should be increased. There are good administrators in other civil services as well. What about them? There are also many mis-administrators and administrative duds in IAS. What about them? If left like this IAS will demand positions in the Indian Armed Forces and Union & State Cabinets also. We need a great politician who knows in and out about our administration and goes beyond the counsel of IAS and sets the country in order

  3. Diplomacy should be based on the ground situation in the foreign country and should also take into consideration of the sentiments of the people of India.All efforts should be made put the national and the interest of the indians as foremost.No decision should be based on image/personality