Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Why Narendra Modi’s advice to split MEA could worry career diplomats

Should MEA be split into two?
GUJARAT chief minister Narendra Modi’s suggestion of a massive restructuring of the ministry of external affairs (MEA) could trigger a fresh debate on whether career diplomats should pick up economics and commerce fast, or should they just succumb to the Union commerce ministry’s lobby to enhance officers (read IAS) with commerce background in Indian foreign missions. Till now, about 750 career diplomats have successfully blocked the creation of a…
separate commerce ministry cadre in parallel to IFS, but suggestions from none other than BJP’s potential Prime Ministerial candidate could create further confusion to the on-going row. 
While talking at a nationally televised show organised by Network 18, Modi said in clear terms how the art of diplomacy has undergone changes over the years. Now, trade and commerce are the most important ingredients in diplomacy, he said while replying to a question on the need to engineer big-ticket changes in government. He said performance of the MEA could be increased by spiting it into two, one dealing in traditional form of diplomacy and the other in trade and commerce.
He further said that every Indian state should have a partner country, and one officer from each state should be stationed in the Indian mission of that country. He did not spell out who that officer could be, but very logically, it would be an IAS officer from that cadre.
The IFS officers could have ignored the idea of splitting the MEA into two as yet another rhetoric, had it been said by someone else. But Modi does implement what he says. But the question is: will he get a mandate to engineer such massive overhaul in government ministries?
For the IFS, their tiny number (about 750) in comparison to 5000 plus for IAS, is a worry in the fast-changing global order. The government has in-principle agreed to enhance the IFS cadre to about 1,500, but the question remains how long will it take to fill up 750 more posts. Will UPSC hold any special examination for the purpose? Or, will the career diplomats be comfortable if there is any lateral entry into the service, maybe from the other Group A services? What’s your take on the subject? Do give your suggestions on the comment box below, or write to us at feedback@babusofindia.com.

Action and Appointments
a) Sutanu Behuria, a 1976 batch Himachal Pradesh cadre IAS and secretary in the ministry of minority affairs has been appointed as secretary in the department of heavy industry. Behuria will also hold the additional charge of the post of secretary, department of public enterprises from April 13, 2013 to April 24, 2013 during the absence on leave of OP Rawat, a 1977 batch MP cadre IAS.
b) Ravi Mathur, a 1979 batch Rajasthan cadre IAS and secretary of the department of disinvestment, will hold additional charge of the post of secretary, ministry of minority affairs for a period of three months with immediate effect or until further orders.
c) Ameising Luikham, a 1981 batch Manipur-Tripura cadre IAS, has been appointed as secretary in the North Eastern Council, Shillong, in the rank and pay of additional secretary.
d) In partial modification of the earlier order, Ms Rita Menon, will now remain as CMD, ITPO, in the rank and pay of secretary for a period of three years with effect from the date of assumption of charge of the post i.e. January 3, 2012


  1. Good story. Wow photo

  2. A very valid issue raised by Narendra Modi ji. But the answer does not lie in splitting the MEA. The interests of the country are paramount but not the interests of any service under the GOI. Yes the international diplomacy has undergone a sea change and the present IFS officers need expertise in some new areas particularly economics, trade and commerce. The solution is simple - The IFS officers should continue to head the Indian Missions abroad, there should be an overhaul of the training being given to IFS currently by including and increasing the weightage of subjects like economics, commerce, accounting, trade, etc. and specialists should be posted permanently abroad in Indian Missions along with IFS officers. There is a service called Indian Trade Service (ITS) under the Min. of Commerce. ITS officers are also recruited by the UPSC through the same Civil Services Examination. There should be a post in every Indian Mission abroad looking after the trade and commerce headed by a ITS officer. IAS officers need not be posted in Indian Missions abroad. There should also be a post looking after the taxation and collection of intelligence in every Indian Mission abroad headed by an IRS(IT) officer. In some some Indian Missions where other specialists are required like economists, customs experts, statisticians, Police officers, military experts, etc, officers from IES, IRS(C&CE), IIS, IPS, Armed Forces, etc can be posted. The interests and requirements of the country should take precedence over the interests of any service or any individual. Postings should be done scientifically and even lateral entry should be resorted to for protecting the rights and interests of the country. The collective expertise of Indians should be harnessed rather than promoting the hegemony of some overrated services. The qualifications, training, expertise and experience of officers are important rather than the fact that they belong to a particular service while posting them in Indian Missions abroad.

  3. IN my opinion, officers from other group A services, who have a minimum level of experience, which is to be decided, could be allowed for lateral entry into the IFS. This would save a lot of time. Conducting exams and recruiting and bringing them up to the standards would take a lot of time.

    Secondly, group A service officers if selected for lateral entry, would come with a lot of experience.

    Thirdly, this is a great scope to kill the monotony in the parent cadre, which is a serious detrimental factor affecting the efficiency of the parent cadre.

  4. The idea of economic diplomacy is not new; perhaps it was not given much attention earlier in the media, MEA has been aware of the importance of economic diplomacy. It created a separate post of Secretary for economic relations and it has been the focus in training of IFS Officers since 1980s. In all the mission and posts there are officers either dedicated to economic and commercial work or mandated to devote their time and resources to such work. As a result economic and commercial officers in Indian Missions have been successfully promoting trade and investment and Head of Missions have been devoting a large part of their time and resources to economic diplomacy. Though there is no denying that the IFS cadre should be expanded but it is wrong to presume, based on lack of information, that IFS officers are not equipped for economic diplomacy.

  5. India cannot develop if it has very less officers in the IFS in dealing with diplomacy of India in the world. US and China has more diplomats than the whole IAS cadre in India.

    There are few good Group A services. Among them I think IFS should include these two services in its lateral entry - Indian Economic Service and Central Secretariat Service (Group A) and Indian Engineering Services.

    Conducting new exams through UPSC and special recruitments from non civil service would take more than 15 year time period to develop a person to know about Central Government and foreign diplomacy. I think lateral entry from other services should be the only choice as they already have experience and knowledge.