External Considerations

Written by The Financial Express | Updated: Aug 30 2014, 08:12am hrs
In Chennai last year, Narendra Modi had argued for states having a greater say in foreign affairs. He suggested that Indian embassies should have desks for various states to be able to promote business and investment; essentially, ambassadors of products and services that are unique to their state. The proposal is currently with the ministry of external affairs and since Modi floated the idea himself, mandarins in South Block are working on a possible framework. In private, however, they have serious reservations concerning clashes of interest, space constraints in embassies and fears that the so-called desks will become a convenient posting for favoured bureaucrats of the ruling dispensation in individual states.

Their argument is that much of todays diplomacy is to do with economic affairsa process started by Rajiv Gandhi when he was the PM, when diplomats with economic backgrounds were posted in strategic foreign capitals to promote trade with India. They also ask who is going to foot the bill for the additional space required for these desks as well as the accommodation for the officers in the foreign countries. The background to the proposal is Modis stint as Gujarat chief ministerhe has maintained since then that the state could have benefited from a presence abroad and could have spurred foreign investments. There is some merit in his thinking but the fear is that state bureaucrats will prefer to be posted in favoured capitals, mainly in the West. We have the examples of India tourism offices abroad which did precious little, and many of them had to be shut down. The real misgiving within MEA is that such representatives will be stepping on the ministry manadarins toes and invading what they consider sacred territory.