The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has requested the Finance Ministry to depute a contingent of meritorious revenue service officials to monitor India's aid projects to various countries worth thousands of crores of rupees.
Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao has written a letter to Revenue Secretary Sunil Mitra in this regard seeking deputation of officers of Income Tax and Customs for the purpose.
Official sources said a panel of almost a dozen bright officials from both the Income Tax and Customs department will be dispatched soon to the MEA which has taken the step keeping in mind "the increasing importance of economic diplomacy" in India's foreign policy.
Rao, in her letter written last month, has said with the fresh induction of such revenue officials, her ministry would have a "greater degree of economic and financial expertise at the policy-making level within MEA".
"With the increasing importance of economic diplomacy in the overall foreign policy framework of India, there is a requirement to instill a greater degree of economic and financial expertise at the policy-making level within MEA. This requirement is felt particularly in the two specialised economic divisions of the ministry.... Investment and Technology Promotion Division and the Multi-lateral Economic Relations Division," she said in her letter.
Rao has also underlined India's commitments worth thousand of crores of rupees in support of development projects in neighbouring countries and other nations and the requirement of such officials for effective implementation of these projects.
"A number of territorial divisions in MEA are engaged in supervision of bilateral aid projects in countries of diplomatic importance to us. Our commitments in these projects, which are being undertaken not only in neighbouring countries but also through grant or Credit support in African nations, runs to thousands of crores of rupees."
"To oversee the implementation of these projects, we require officers (Income Tax and Customs) with aptitude and experience in monitoring financial transactions, overseeing budgetary impacts and with a general comfort with financial concepts," she wrote.
A batch of Income Tax (Indian Revenue Service) officers is at present deputed in Afghanistan to train tax officials and impart other taxation aspects to revenue officials in that country.
The MEA has sought officers of the level of Deputy Secretary and Under Secretary for deputation.
Rao has also expressed her Ministry's willingness to induct "several officers" for a deputation period of two to three years in the MEA.
"This would not only help MEA acquire specialised knowledge and expertise, but the exposure would also prove useful for the professional development of the officers concerned," Rao's letter added.