It is learnt that a cabinet note has reached the Prime Minister’s Office with the approval of the finance ministry’s department of expenditure, which has sanctioned the creation of 38 counsellor- and first secretary-level posts in missions located mostly in Europe and the Americas. Interestingly, not a single post is slotted for Africa.
The biggest jolt in this proposal is to the Ministry of External Affairs and its cadre of Indian Foreign Service officers, whose influence will shrink greatly if the proposal goes through. Given that these trade officials will have their own parallel reporting structure to the commerce ministry, the role of the mission head or the ambassador is likely to diminish.
Also, the proposal is clear that the Civil Services Board, and not the Foreign Services Board (FSB), will appoint these officers, lending another twist to a simmering turf war because that will completely leave out IFS officers and let in the IAS and other services for these plum posts. All diplomatic assignments are now cleared by the FSB, the main body for IFS officers.
However, the MEA’s defence is somewhat dented. According to sources, former Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, who is now the Indian Ambassador to the United States, gave her consent during an inter-ministerial meeting on the subject.
Even though External Affairs Minister S M Krishna is said to have written to Commerce Minister Anand Sharma for more discussions on the issue in its initial stages, Rao’s consent has been shown as the MEA’s acquiescence in the cabinet note. The MEA never contested the minutes of that meeting, added sources.
As of now, the Commerce Ministry has a few officers in the India’s permanent mission at the World Trade Organisation in Geneva and even in Brussels. Also, the Finance Ministry has six minister-level officers in Indian mission under its direct supervision.
The PMO is understood to have sent the proposal down to MEA for its consideration, especially since its detailed comments, unlike other ministries, had not been included in the note.
A haklf baked proposal this,. how does this reach OPM's office cleared even by the finance. Certainly this is a new policy measure needing public ocnnsultation. People certasinly do not want new strasms which may a bane and not a boon. It is also somewhat surprising that our ambassador to US also a foreign service officer gave supoorft to this move. Certailly, opeople and academics and trhink tanks will have a different view. Stoop this proposal being decided and put nit before the public forf consultations. Good that IE revealed this bizartre move.
Every embassy must be seen as a Team, with the Ambassador as its captain and the Councilars for Trade &Commerce, Military, PR, S&T,etc as its Team. It is a cooperative effort with a common focus that is vital to make a difference. Creating Turfs is counter productive. Functional autonomy and reporting without undermining the team is essential for results.