NEW DELHI: The art of diplomacy is not limited to engaging foreign states, but also deals with other wings of the government within the country.
India’s external spy agency—Research and Analysis Wing (RAW)— will include a joint secretary-rank IFS officer on deputation, at a time when the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), flush with middle-rung officers, is sending them on ‘missions’ in other ministries.
The IFS officer’s role will be to smoothen relations to ensure better coordination between his parent ministry, MEA, and RAW.
“Having a senior IFS official with RAW would also help it to get the “big picture” in terms of India’s foreign policy priorities, said an MEA official.
With Indian diplomats often left to handle the consequences of covert operations, an IFS officer in cabinet secretariat will certainly help to disseminate a more detailed view about the sensitivities and nuances of relations with various countries.
A former MEA secretary, Kishan Rana, who now specialises in foreign office operations, said that the intelligence officer posted abroad kept the ambassador in the loop “depending on his (latter’s) clout back home and his good relations with the RAW head.
So far, the job could go to Anumula Gitesh Sarma, (1986) who has just returned as High Commissioner to Fiji. The last IFS officer at the cabinet secretariat was Dnyaneshwar Mulay (1983), who was foreign service advisor. He is now the Indian consul general in New York.
After S Jaishankar took over as foreign secretary, there has been greater emphasis on strengthening headquarters —with several officers brought back from their foreign postings. “Now that there are enough officers at joint secretary and director ranks, the idea is to get back posts in other ministries which were traditionally filled by IFS officers,” said a senior MEA official.
Early next year, 1995-batch IFS officer Shambu Kumaran is expected to join the defence ministry to look after the international cooperation portfolio—a post held by IAS officers for the last eight years.
Sanjay Sudhir (1993), who until recently was the Indian consul general in Sydney, will return to the petroleum ministry. He was briefly posted there in 2012 before the cabinet secretary-chaired Civil Services Board prevented his empanelment since he was too junior.
Incidentally, the petroleum ministry may get three IFS officers in the near future. The private secretary to the minister of state is Binay Pradhan, a 2002-batch officer, while a deputy secretary-ranked post may also be filled by a junior diplomat.
Rana said historically, MEA had been assigned about six posts in the petroleum ministry and three-four in the commerce ministry. Besides manpower shortage, the veteran IFS officer said, “there was reluctance for officers to leave MEA, as they felt they would be forgotten and go into the periphery.”
Besides manpower shortage, the veteran IFS officer said that there was another more subjective reason. “There was reluctance for officers to leave MEA, as they felt that they would forgotten and go into the periphery,” said Rana.
Among the economic ministries, commerce has had a continuous tradition of IFS officers serving at Udyog Bhawan. The latest in line being joint secretary Dammu Ravi, 1989 batch IFS.
The post for an IFS in the finance ministry, which has also been lying fallow for some time, will also be filled up soon.