NEWDELHI: With the United Progressive Alliance government being unusually tardy in filling up its ambassadorial positions abroad, nearly a dozen posts, including several to major powers, have been vacant for some months.
The starkest example, of course, has been that of the Indian High Commissioner to United Kingdom, a post that has been vacant since August 2011 after the retirement of Nalin Surie. It’s unprecedented that such a coveted position, which has been graced by luminaries like L M Singhvi and S S Ray in the past, has remained unfilled for the last six months. In the meantime, the capital’s rumour mills have named possible candidates ranging from career diplomats to a former Special Protection Group head. The Indian Foreign Service seems to have won this battle against political appointees for this post, which once carried the weight of Cabinet rank.
According to Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) officials, New Delhi has finally forwarded the name of 1976-batch officer Jaimini Bhagwati, the 58-year-old Indian envoy at Brussels. “We are just awaiting the agreemo from the UK government to make the formal announcement,” said a senior official. But, like an iceberg, the London post is only the tip of the trouble plaguing the MEA.
“There seems to be a paralysis at taking decisions at the top level, with the government more involved in fire-fighting day to day… There did not seem to be enough mind space to take decisions on even routine matters like transfers of ambassadors,” said a senior MEA official.
As pointed out, superannuation of ambassadors is a routine matter, which should not allow missions vital for projecting Indian diplomacy, to go topless. “Surely, retirements are known well in advance. There is no need for such a big gap between two people at the post. It takes a minimum of three months in appointing new envoys as the host country’s assent has to be also taken,” he said.