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Shashi Tharoor urges govt to increase number of diplomats, bats for separate IFS exam

Picture Courtesy : The New Indian Express
Picture Courtesy : The New Indian Express

Congress leader and Chairman of the Parliamentary panel on External Affairs Shashi Tharoor has said the government should increase the number of diplomats and asserted that there was a need for a separate exam for the Indian Foreign Service (IFS).

“Brazil has 1,200 people in foreign services, if you look at the number when it comes to China they have something like 6,000 people, the US has 20,000 people. I am not saying we can be like the US or even like China. But 800 is far too modest a number and it needs to be increased,” Tharoor, a former UN diplomat and former MOS External Affairs and HRD, told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of the panel earlier this week.

According to a PTI report, The Committee on External Affairs in a report had also expressed “grave concern” over the IFS strength, noting that there were only 770 IFS officers against the sanctioned strength of 912.

The committee was of the view that the size of India’s diplomatic corps “is inadequate considering the tasks and challenges before the Ministry and nation”.

Pitching for lateral entry into the IFS, he said there has been an increase in intake for the foreign service in the last year or so but those people would be ready for productivity after 10 years of work experience.

“We are saying you need some people now to make up for your efficiency. So we can think about lateral entry and facilitating the entry of NRIs,” he said.

Making a case for a separate exam for the service, Tharoor said those golden days are over when the IFS was seen as the elite service and one had to be in the first ten of the UPSC ranks to opt for it.

“But equally, we are getting people into the foreign service, who never wanted to be in the service. The kind of qualities that are needed in a diplomat are very different from others. So there is need for separate exam for it,” he said.

For becoming a diplomat one needs to have some interest in world affairs, some flair for languages among other qualities, he said.

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