As the country’s economic and diplomatic clout grows, the workload of the Legal and Treaties division, under the Ministry of External Affairs, too, increases.
And now, the government has grudgingly agreed to increase the size of the Legal and Treaties division, a demand that remained unattended for years. Until now, the division had been working with just 15 officers.
The finance ministry recently gave its nod to increase the division’s cadre strength to 23, although the external affairs ministry had proposed an increase to 26 officers.
Government sources admit that with country’s clout growing, the division has increasingly becoming important.
“We are having pacts with groupings, individual countries on a wide array of areas. That means a process of negotiation, whetting where the division has to play an active role,” said a government official.
Also, according to the new plan, there will be two more officials posted abroad from the division.
As of now, only one officer is posted outside India — in New York. Now the proposal is to have an officer, each, in Geneva and Hague.
However, even with this increase, the division’s cadre strength stands nowhere in comparison with the manpower available to similar departments in other countries.
With 218 officers, the United States has the highest number of officials at its disposal to do the work that only 23 officers are expected to do in India. Even India’s biggest neighbour and world’s second biggest economy, China, has 75 officers in a similar department.
“The division has a substantive role to play in all the pacts the government firms up with foreign countries — from free-trade agreements to extradition treaties to other pacts. And the workload naturally increases with ties growing stronger and pacts being signed in more and more areas,” said a government official.
The legal and treaties department is important, as it plays a major role in the matters of disputes as well — such as the maritime boundary issues or the water-sharing tussle with Pakistan under the Indus water treaty.
In many countries, there is a distinction between those who deal with trade-related pacts and the rest.
For example, Canada has 25 officials dealing with trade-related issues, but there is no such distinction in India.