Wednesday, September 22, 2010

An 'interloper's' view of diplomacy

Since 2007, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has been implementing a much-needed plan to double the size of the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) from its woefully small number of about 620 when this decision was taken. No country with over 100 diplomatic missions around the world functions with less than 1,000 executive or diplomatic rank officials. Mexico, with 80 missions (and 70-odd consulates), has around 1,030 and it is seen as a small service. India has over 120 missions — and more are added each year — besides over 40 consulates.

One expansion method is to step up induction via the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) exams, and this is underway. From an average annual recruitment of less than 14 in 2000-05, 30 are now being taken and the number will rise to 35 in 2012. Too big a recruitment surge will produce a “bulge” that will be hard to handle as soon as the first set of promotions come up. The other method, tried rarely, is to take in some at mid-career levels. Understandably, the IFS views this with serious reserve, both as a dilution of standards and a threat to promotions for those who entered via the traditional UPSC route.

This book by B S Das, despite its title, is relevant to this discussion, given that he made a singular success of his diplomatic career although many initially saw him as “interloper” from the police service. If such quality of talent is available at mid-career levels, the IFS need not fear. Alas, individuals of the competence plus the integrity and modesty of Das are all too few.

Full report here Business Standard

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