The Ministry of External Affairs has refused to divulge information on the controversial selection of a new Indian envoy to North Korea under the Right to Information Act, as it could affect India’s foreign relations. On May 15, the ministry announced that Ajay K Sharma, a counselor in the Indian High Commission in Fiji, had been appointed as the next ambassador to Pyongyang.
But it had led to howls of protest from three IFS (B) cadre associations - the feeder cadre to the elite Indian Foreign Service, that a member of the stenographer cadre, which provides secretarial support, had been made an Indian envoy.
The internal dissension within the ministry was first reported by Express on May 27. The IFS (B) groups had protested that it was not right to appoint a person who had not worked in territorial desks or held diplomatic positions abroad. They said that the ministry could have chosen from the relatively junior members of the IFS or from IFS (B), if it is facing problems in finding a suitable candidate from the senior echelons of the IFS.
Senior MEA officials had then dismissed the protests as a “turf war” between officials belonging to IFS (B) and the stenographer cadres. It was asserted that it would be unseemly for the ministry to roll back its announcement, pointing out that there had been “several layers” of decisionmaking involved in selecting Sharma.
Since then, it was learned that the ministry was ‘reviewing’ the file related to the appointment, but no decision has been made yet. Sharma has not taken up the post in Pyongyang so far, with the incumbent Pratap Singh still the ambassador.
The RTI query filed had asked for copies of the documents related to the appointment of Ajay Kumar Sharma, as well as a copy of the resume which was submitted to the appointing authority as part of the file.
To all these queries, the ministry refused to part with any information. “The appointment of HOMs (Heads of Missions) is done taking into account India’s bilateral relations and disclosure of such information could prejudicially affect India’s relations with the foreign state,” MEA said in its reply.