Former Diplomat Blames Lateral Entry for Ills of Foreign Service

Ambassador T. P. Sreenivasan

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Washington, DC – One of the top veteran Indian diplomats recently blamed the infiltration of personnel from other allied services into foreign Indian outposts as the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), with its meager cadre, limps along across the globe.

Ambassador T. P. Sreenivasan, Indian diplomat and former Permanent Representative for India at the United Nations, addressed an August event hosted by the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC.

On the numerical strength of IFS, Sreenivasan gave the example of the Indian Embassy in Washington, DC saying, “You go to the Indian Embassy here, you will find only one-tenth is from the Indian Foreign Service. The rest are all from various other services and the ministries.”

Lambasting other services for gate-crashing into the domain of the IFS, Sreenivasan said, “Every Ministry, the Commerce Ministry, the Environment Ministry, the Steel Ministry, everybody has taken away a lot from the so-called specialists. They are not specialists – their inaudible statement is purely three days ago, and the guy says, “I know steel,” so I want to come to the Indian Embassy in Washington.”

“I often say that every post that I have served in different parts of the world, I always had eight American counterparts, 10 Chinese counterparts, and 15 Russian counterparts,” said Sreenivasan, adding, “In Vienna, the United States have four ambassadors, and most countries have three. And I was the only one in Vienna from India. So the numbers, we are really bad, in the sense that we are a very small Foreign Service.”

Reiterating the lack of IFS personnel, the diplomat urged, “We need to recruit more, we need to train them more, and we should give them the capability to function in terms of infrastructure, in terms of facilities,” noting, “(Indian) Foreign Service has a problem about personnel numbers.”

Statistically speaking, the Indian Foreign Service has 782 personnel globally and the number is just seven more than the tiny nation of Singapore, noted Walter Anderson of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

On the issue of Indian diplomats being sluggish and failure to act by the Indian government, Sreenivasan related a prevailing episode: “I was reminded of the famous statement by a Burmese, who told our Foreign Minister, that India, it looks like, had joined NATO. So, he said, “No, India has not joined NATO.” “But Mr. Minister, No Action, Talk Only.” So this has become very famous in Indian diplomatic parlance. India has joined NATO.”

A source in the Indian Embassy in Washington, DC confirmed that there were more other services personnel, coming through lateral entries, at the mission than the IFS, as alleged by Sreenivasan, but another source at the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi denied knowledge of any remedial measures to expand the IFS in the near future. (IATNS)

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