External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid has begun a series of consultations on this issue and recently met many of the country’s retired ambasssadors and distinguished diplomats to understand how the foreign service could be strengthened and used effectively to project Indian policies and power abroad.
Among those he met were former foreign secretaries Maharaj Krishan Rasgotra and Shyam Saran, former cabinet secretary Naresh Chandra, who has also served as Indian ambassador to the US, and former secretaries K.S. Bajpai, S.K Lambah and Leela Ponappa.
To a question about what the government was doing to address the shortages in its diplomatic strength, Khurshid had told IANS in a recent interview: “We are looking at just this problem. I hope that we will be able to push through a very good plan to bring much great strength to the foreign service.”
He said the union cabinet had recently approved the plan to augment the strength of the Indian Foreign Service (IFS). “We have very few (diplomats), we need many more. (The) cabinet has agreed. We can double the numbers which we are in the process of doing.
According to the Ministry of External Affairs website: “In recent years, the intake into the Indian Foreign Service has averaged between 8-15 persons annually. The present cadre strength of the service stands at approximately 600 officers manning around 162 Indian missions and posts abroad and the various posts in the ministry at home.”.
Tiny Singapore, with just five million people, has about the same number of diplomats as India has while China, with a comparative population, has eight times the number of diplomats. Countries like the United States and United Kingdom have many more diplomats.
The US has 294 physical embassies, consulates, and diplomatic missions across the world with around 15,000 professionals.Britain has an estimated 1,900 diplomats.—IANS.