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Shashi Tharoor-led panel wants ‘eminent personalities’ posted as diplomats

Voicing concern over the shrinking space for non-career ambassadors in the illustrious Indian Foreign Service, a Parliamentary Committee headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor has proposed that individuals who have excelled in diverse fields should
India TV Politics Desk New Delhi August 03, 2016 20:19 IST
India TV Politics Desk

Voicing concern over the shrinking space for non-career ambassadors in the illustrious Indian Foreign Service, a Parliamentary Committee headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor has proposed that individuals who have excelled in diverse fields should also be considered for appointments as Ambassadors or High Commissioners.

If the recommendation of the committee in this regard is accepted, India could open doors for its Foreign Service for ordinary people with distinction in their respective careers. 

As per the panel, eminent personalities from fields like community affairs, diaspora issues, foreign policy, area studies, literature, journalism etc should be considered for the high-profile jobs. 

“The committee is concerned to note that the space for non-career ambassadors has considerably shrunk, as in the past there had been a number of highly illustrious ambassadors who were not drawn from the (Indian Foreign Service) and who served their posts with distinction. The committee is of the considered view that more eminent persons who have excelled in the field of community affairs, diaspora issues, foreign policy, area studies, literature, journalism etc should be considered for appointments as ambassadors/high commissioners,” the committee said in its report.

India’s diplomatic corps’ strength lacks not just in terms of numbers but also in terms of quality of the diplomats, the committee further said.

In its 12th report tabled in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, the Parliamentary Committee on External Affairs expressed "grave concern" over "inadequate" size of India's diplomatic corps considering the tasks and challenges before the country. It said there the number of IFS officers currently is 770 as against sanctioned strength of 912.       

Expressing concern over the shrinking space for "non-career ambassadors", the panel said there had been a number of highly illustrious ambassadors who were not drawn from the IFS and who served with distinction.       

It said currently only two non-career ambassadors are posted and favoured appointment of eminent persons as ambassadors and high commissioners who have excelled in areas of foreign policy, literature, journalism and diaspora affairs.   

The committee has also asked for an additional paper in the civil service exam for those wanting to join Indian Foreign Service so that their knowledge of international affairs and required aptitude can be tested. 

Stressing on the need for having right people to handle India's diplomatic engagement, the panel said an additional paper should be made mandatory for candidates opting for the IFS and that the scope of personality test should be enhanced considering the qualities required for a diplomat.  

The committee headed by Tharoor, former MoS in External Affairs, said the interview board while conducting personality test may also be asked to indicate whether candidates opting for IFS are recommended for the diplomatic service or not.    

"In other words, a candidate may be allotted IFS if he/she is in the merit list, has cleared the additional paper and obtained a recommendation from the Interview Board," it said. The committee also emphasised the need for the diplomats to have proficiency in foreign language.

"Out of 770 IFS officers in service, the number of officers with proficiency in a foreign language is only 569. It may be easily inferred that around 200 IFS officers are not equipped with any foreign language and the committee were disappointed by this dismal state of affairs," said the report.