Govt overhauls diplomats’ training: Focus on neighbours, theory trimmed

  • Jayanth Jacob, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jul 11, 2016 14:52 IST
The 18th Saarc summit two years ago. India’s young diplomats will be trained in dealing with neighbours.

The government has overhauled the training module for young diplomats, focussing on bolstering ties with neighbours and cutting down theoretical lectures, in a bid to keep up with the changing times.

The pl (FSI), which trains diplomats, has kicked off a plan in line with what it thinks will “equip” diplomats to “face new and varied challenges” in the service.

Under the new programme, senior serving officials will address trainees on particular issues, such as the telecom secretary explaining the government policy in the sector.

“The vision of the government is to see the diplomats represent their country in its total reality. They should represent the country in a way that its needs are catered to while on assignments,” Amarendra Khatua, the dean of the FSI, told HT.

A key change will emphasise on ties with neighbours, which means compulsory travelling to Islamabad, Beijing and Moscow.

The new plan also reduces classroom trainings – that mostly comprise lectures -- to five months from ten months at present. There is, however, no reduction in the training’s total duration.

“The average age of Indian diplomats joining the service now is 27-29. It used to be 23-24. They come after doing some jobs or a professional course. So the training module has to change,” an official said.

India has just 917 officers manning its 182 missions and posts across the world, making the government’s task of training diplomats more difficult. In contrast, China has 4,000 and the United States 11,000 career diplomats.

Under the new programme, officers will be given an opportunity to study about Indian states and the government’s flagship programmes such as Make in India that aims to make the country a manufacturing hub.

The FSI is also getting visiting foreign dignitaries to interact with the diplomats at regular intervals. Mongolian foreign minister L Purevsuren and US under-secretary of state for foreign affairs Tom Shannon interacted with the 44 trainees at the institute recently.

“Such interactions help diplomats develop independent thinking. They will always be hearing what the government is doing. But they also need to listen to voices from outside,” said Lalit Mansingh, former foreign secretary and ex-dean of the FSI.

But the challenge seems to be in making trainings a frequent affair and not a one-off for the diplomats.

“There has to be frequent training programmes for the diplomats at various stages of their career. The world that diplomats deal with keeps on changing. And the changes take place very fast,” Mansingh said.

He also rooted for the inclusion of more “special capsules” in the training, such as trade and energy diplomacy.

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