IFS officers to be key in global outreach of states

  • Jayanth Jacob, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Mar 29, 2015 01:03 IST

Diplomats may soon be posted to state headquarters, possibly in chief ministers’ offices, to liaise on matters related to trade and investment as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push to cooperative federalism. According to a proposal readied by the Centre, such postings would be given to IFS officers of the rank of joint secretary or director. The plan would initially be rolled out in 10 states, sources familiar with the development told HT.

“Eventually we will have an IFS officer posted in each state and Union territory,” sources said. The proposal comes in the wake of the external affairs ministry creating a state division to liaise with states on matters related to trade and investment.

Experience gained in state postings would help diplomats showcase these states abroad, sources added.

India currently has 900 IFS officers and the government plans to increase the number to 1,200 by 2018. That, however, is nowhere near China which has over 4,000 officers, Japan which has over 5,000 and the UK with over 6,500 officers. Government sources, however, said they have “enough manpower to deal with the situation”.

The external affairs ministry has also asked each of its IFS officers to “specialise in the needs of two states” of their choice. Focus on states has already become part of diplomats’ training at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI).

“At times state government officials find it difficult to advance their plans of seeking investment and trade with foreign countries due to their inability to find a way through the divisions in the ministry of external affairs (MEA). So this initiative sounds good,” a resident commissioner of a southern state in Delhi said on condition of anonymity. The MEA has also been devising plans to link state governments and local bodies with its outreach programmes.

“Incorporating local bodies and state governments in our outreach to the world is part of a broader effort in accordance with Prime Minister Modi’s vision of cooperative federalism,” external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said at the Growth Net Seminar 2015 on March 26.

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