IFS officers shy away from central deputation
There aren’t any more takers among Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officers for vital deputations to a handful of key Union ministries. Till a couple of years ago, IFS officers were posted as joint secretaries in at least six major Union ministries.
Like the MOIA, the defence ministry has a similar story, where IFS officers were deputed to the poistion of joint secretary (planning and international cooperation) till 2008, a key post in the context of India’s growing defence diplomacy. The last IFS officer of joint secretary rank in the defence ministry was Debnath Shaw, who is currently the envoy to Tanzania. “Frankly, we used to feel that IFS officers had their first loyalty to MEA in such exchange of views between ministries, so the defence ministry had no compunction in filling up the post from other cadres,” says a defence ministry official.
During the term of former IFS officer Mani Shankar Aiyar as petroleum minister from 2004 to 2006, energy security and energy diplomacy had become buzzwords—even getting Talmiz Ahmad of the 1974 IFS batch as an additional secretary (international cooperation) in Shastri Bhawan. It was not a long-lived experiment, with Ahmad returning after Aiyar was removed to the youth affairs and sports ministry. The post was then demoted to a joint secretary-level, which had traditionally been filled up by a IFS officer till 2010. From 2010 to August this year, an IAS officer of the West Bengal cadre has been doing the job.
Later, Jaipal Reddy as petroleum minister decided that it was time to get back an IFS official back, when 1993 batch Sanjay Sudhir was taken on ‘loan’ from the MEA. By then, heartburn had been created between the oil ministry and department of personnel and training, with the latter complaining that Sudhir was appointed before his empanelment as joint secretary.
Besides Sudhir, there are only two other IFS joint secretaries serving in other ministries: Amar Sinha (1982 batch) in the commerce ministry, and Rahul Kulshreshth (1985 batch) in the Department of Atomic Energy. In the finance ministry, Venu Rajamony (1986 batch) had been joint secretary in charge of multilateral institutions division till he joined Pranab Mukherjee move at Rashtrapati Bhawan as press secretary. His post has since been filled up by 1990 IAS officer Prabodh Saxena.
IFS officers don’t want any home runs in the capital
Deputation seems to have become a dirty word in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), with no takers among Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officers for vital deputations to a handful of key ministries. Till a couple of years ago, IFS officers were posted as joint secretaries in at least six major Union ministries. The situation has changed completely now; there has been no deputation, for instance, to a major ministry like defence for four years. These positions are now taken by IAS officers.
In the middle of this unflattering limelight is the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA), which was actually excised out of the MEA in 2004. From the beginning, it had always had a foreign service officer of joint secretary rank deputed to the ministry, a necessity because of its synergy with Indian missions abroad.
The last joint secretary from the IFS in the MOIA was D N Srivastava (IFS, 1984 batch), who took premature repatriation in 2010. After that, the post was given to an officer from the Indian Defence Account Service (IDAS), with the latest incumbent being am IAS officer from Kerala. “We have been unable to find anybody willing to go on deputation to MOIA,” says a senior MEA official. As an IFS official explained, the main reason for the lack of interest to go outside the foreign ministry is a “psychological”. “We don’t want to go out, as the prevalent perception is that deputation means one is out of sight, out of mind from the top bosses,” he said.
There are no formal circulars issued for applications from IFS officers for these deputations. “When a new officer comes back from abroad, he or she is usually offered various choices. A deputation is usually not a top choice,” the IFS officer said.
According to another MEA official, these officers on deputation use to act as coordinators between the MEA and these ministries. “If we had our own officer, it was sometimes easier to put through our views on certain contentious issues,” the MEA official told The Sunday Standard.
- Sunday Standard