With India's profile growing, foreign service strength will double: S M Krishna (Interview)
New Delhi, June 10 (IANS) With more countries supporting New Delhi's quest for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council and its global profile growing, India will expand its woefully understaffed foreign service by opening doors to more experts and step up its diplomatic outreach around the world, says External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna.
"Our global profile has been steadily growing. We have conducted our diplomacy effectively as a responsible (non-permanent) member of the UN Security Council. We have been very responsible and restrained," Krishna told IANS in an exclusive interview aboard his special aircraft as he flew back from Beijing to Bangalore.
"We haven't been subjective; we have been objective in taking stand on leading global issues. Our credentials for becoming a member of the UN Security Council is gaining momentum," he said.
"The G4 countries and India are now being supported by a large number of countries," said Krishna. The G-4 includes India, Japan, Germany and Brazil that are collectively pressing for a permanent seat in the UNSC.
Against the backdrop of India's rising global stature and its membership of key international organisations, including the G20, the Non-Aligned Movement, BRICS and IBSA, Krishna said his ministry has accelerated the process of expanding the Indian Foreign Service whose size remains smaller than that of Singapore and Malaysia.
"We realised in the last three years that there is an urgent need for expansion of our foreign service. The Indian Foreign Service has a great legacy and it has some of our best and brightest officers. But our number is small," he said.
"We have moved positively in our efforts in expanding our service. The cabinet has approved the proposal of the external affairs ministry for doubling the strength of the foreign service in 10 years," he said.
Krishna, a former chief minister of Karnataka who completed in May three years as foreign minister, however, pointed out procedural complexities, saying "the fact remains that the recruitment process is a time-consuming process."
"We are trying to get more professionals and officials from other departments. We also plan to get more experts from outside the system to make our system more efficient and competitive," he said.
There are barely 800 Indian diplomats across the headquarters in New Delhi, 119 resident missions and 49 consulates, a woefully small size given India's rising power and its aspirations for a UN permanent seat. Compared to that, Brazil, a fellow BRICS country, has a 3,000-strong diplomatic staff, China has 6,200 diplomats and the US tops the list with 19,667 diplomats.
Other steps taken by the external affairs ministry to upgrade India's diplomatic capacity in the last three years include the introduction of mid-career training for officers and encouraging specialisation and domain expertise. The ministry has also outsourced some of protocol and passport-related work to private agencies to free up diplomats to focus on more substantive policy issues.
Another pioneering step Krishna has taken to upgrade India's diplomatic outreach and to make Indian diplomacy more people-focussed is the practice of holding the meeting of India's heads of missions on a regional basis.
"Till now, our missions abroad had mostly government-to-government dealings. Our heads of missions and consulates need to take care of Indian citizens living in those countries. Their contribution to our development has been tremendous," Krishna told IANS.
"They (PIOs and NRIs) have contributed enormous amounts of foreign exchange. But for the Gulf in the time of recession, our remittances would have been negligible," he said while alluding to around $40 billion in foreign remittances sent by six million Indians living in the Gulf countries. Put together, overseas Indians contribute over $60 billion in foreign remittances.
Another idea he said he is trying to implement is to encourage discussions and coordination among diplomats posted in the same region. "It's necessary for our diplomats to know about developments in other countries, specially their neighbouring countries," Krishna said.
Krishna will preside over the meeting of Indian heads of missions of Latin American and Caribbean countries in Havana next week. He has already held such outreach meetings of Indian missions for different regions in Egypt (North Africa), Abu Dhabi (the Gulf region) Singapore (ASEAN) and Madrid (Europe).
(Manish Chand can be contacted at email@example.com)
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