x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 September 2017

India's diplomatic ranks set to swell

India's foreign minister pledges to expand its understaffed foreign service to match the country's rising power and aspirations for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

NEW DELHI // India's foreign minister yesterday pledged to expand its understaffed foreign service to match the country's rising power and aspirations for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Despite India's increasing global stature and membership in key international organisations, the country has barely 800 diplomats in its headquarters in New Delhi, 119 resident missions and 49 consulates.

In comparison, Brazil has a 3,000-member diplomatic staff and China boasts 6,200. Brazil, China and India are all members of the Brics group of leading emerging economies. The United States tops the list with 19,667 diplomats.

SM Krishna, the foreign minister, said the foreign service planned to recruit more experts and step up its diplomatic outreach around the world.

"We realised in the last three years that there is an urgent need for expansion of our foreign service. The Indian foreign service has a great legacy and it has some of our best and brightest officers. But our number is small," Mr Krishna said.

"We have moved positively in our efforts in expanding our service. The cabinet has approved the proposal of the external affairs ministry for doubling the strength of the foreign service in 10 years."

However, "the fact remains that the recruitment process is a time-consuming process".

He said the service is trying to recruit more professionals and officials from other government departments and plans to get more experts from outside.

The ministry has outsourced some of the protocol and passport-related work to private agencies to free up diplomats to focus on more substantive policy issues.

Mr Krishna said he aims to make the service more responsive to the needs of Indian citizens living abroad, noting especially those living in the Gulf.

"They have contributed enormous amounts of foreign exchange. But for the Gulf in the time of recession, our remittances would have been negligible," he said.

Mr Krishna said about US$40 billion (Dh147bn) a year in foreign remittances are sent by 6 million Indians living in Gulf countries. Overseas Indians contribute more than $60bn in foreign remittances, he said.

The attempts to improve the foreign service take place as India looks to further improve its global stature. It is now a member of key international organisations, including the G20, the Non-Aligned Movement and Brics. More countries are also supporting New Delhi's quest for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.

"Our global profile has been steadily growing. We have conducted our diplomacy effectively as a responsible [non-permanent] member of the UN Security Council. We have been very responsible and restrained," Mr Krishna said.

"Our credentials for becoming a member of the UN Security Council is gaining momentum."