REVAMPING THE DIPLOMATIC APPARATUS OF INDIA

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*SHIBIN FOUAD

If the globe is a stage set for a high-end drama, then international politics turns out to be a high rated play. The point of departure of a play from a mono act is its essential collective nature. In a play, when actors perform their role with respect to other players, mono act entirely turns out to be a solo affair. Credentials of a play go to the theme, players and also to the audience as highly rated plays, at times go without adequate attention. This analogy is mentioned to depict in brief what international politics is all about. Here various players are different nations, countries, international organizations, multi-national corporations etc. Relations originating from this politics and vice versa have been very crucial in shaping global history and will remain so. When some players/ countries are able to exert their opinion more and are in a position to change the scene drastically in their favor, other players/ countries are not even able to express their basic existence on this planet. At times, players entrust their duty to their counterparts in return for some favor down the line. Deploying commanders and playing a passive part always is not advisable as it has the potential to backfire, as history has witnessed across years.

Right from the ancient epoch of history, we have heard of mediators and diplomats who on behalf of their origin country (or kingdom, clan, what so ever) carry out Trans boundary relations in favor of their source of mission. In this post-modern era, when the world moves to a global metropolis and the boundaries become permeable, foreign policy of a country is of utmost significance. Every country must take wise decisions and should frame their foreign policy in relation to global scenario keeping an eye on potential eventualities down the line. Each country is a subsystem of the massive giant system, the globe, and hence to carry out the game in their favor, they need a strong team of extremely talented players. Framing and implementing foreign policy requires expertise and to this end, every country, in general, have placed a method of selecting and recruiting cadres to their team. This is done by an exam thrown open wide for all or by a practice of favoritism where the ruling apparatus body selects their dears and nears.

Flaws in Selection Process

In India, we have the prestigious Indian Foreign Service, which hosts such cadres who work hard and smart for us, but are they smart enough? Union Public Service Commission, the watchdog of the merit system in the country, a constitutional body under the articles 315-323 of the Constitution of India conducts the high profile Civil Services Examination (CSE) for selection of such meritorious cadres to IFS and 22 other services along with the Indian Administrative Service and the Indian Police Service. IFS is the highest central service in the country and are managed by the Ministry of External Affairs. CSE is generally referred to as the mother of examinations and UPSC as the Unpredictable Public Service Commission by candidates as the question pattern keeps on changing every now and then. Every year, UPSC comes with something out of the box which throws aspirants into wonders and this really tests their mettle. Syllabus prescribed is quite extensive and it’s a lengthy process to cross the line, still, there has been a bone of contention always that should IFS be kept with other elite services or be conducted by a qualifying mechanism set exclusively for the same. There has been frequent spat on this from diplomats and politicians.

Recently, a statement made by Dr. Shashi Taroor, MP and a former UN Under-Secretary- General, on this issue had received wide attention. Handling diplomacy requires expertise and is not a cakewalk that mere rote learning would help. As mentioned earlier, diplomats have to tackle situations and dribble against other players so as to score for their home country. In the list provided to candidates by UPSC, IFS comes second after IAS and in most cases, candidates attempting CSE prefer IAS as their first option. So in one sense, candidates by the virtue of not scoring enough marks so as to get into IAS get contained with IFS.  Once a candidate is allotted to IFS, he/she cannot reappear in the exam to better their ranks unless they resign from IFS. This is the same with IAS too, but for other services, candidates have the option to better themselves by reappearing in the exam. Candidates may not be courageous or confident enough to resign from IFS and sail through the entire process again. Resulting emotion has the potential to play a substantial role in the lower motivation levels of cadres.

After selection, they are imparted high profile training to meet the requirements of the service. But the habit of self-driven knowledge cultivation must be inculcated oneself to keep updated which is a crucial part of diplomacy. This does not happen too often with diplomats and this is a genuine cause of worry. Hence they may not be able to keep fit themselves in the gala international race. Adding to disappointment is the sober number of cadres recruited into IFS every year. It is very strange that out of the sanctioned 912 IFS officers which by itself is never a good number, Government of India has only recruited 770 officers. On deriving comparisons, with other countries, for instance, China, with whom we are in a constant race, has a strength of 6000 such officers. Brazil and US deploy 1200 and 20,000 such officers respectively to extend their arms around the globe. Both these have significant implications on the quality of diplomacy carried out all these years.

The Way Out

It’s high time we ponder on this to arrive at solutions worth implementing. This can be multifold as follows: a) one simple way out would be recruiting more cadres to strengthen the manpower in the service. Despite the fact that they would be productive only after 10 years of work experience and this cannot make up the deficiency that we are facing right now, still recruiting more cadres to IFS can pave the way to an extent, b) an exclusive exam can be conducted to recruit IFS officers as is the case in Indian Forest Service where candidates would be tested with global issues extensively. c) another would be placing provisions for lateral entry into IFS. This option can be used to recruit domain experts and qualified academicians into our diplomatic apparatus. In many cases, they take part in international dialogues and play a key role in negotiations. So it is wise and advantageous to induct such experts into the service. Implanting these measures in the selection process would help in bolstering IFS and India’s diplomatic potential across the world. It would help our country leap more distances in our race to become the global superpower.

*Shibin are Ph.D. Scholar, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

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