How a four-minister MEA could amplify India’s diplomatic power?

Source: Livemint

Relevance: Impact of recent MEA expansion on India’s diplomatic strength

Synopsis: The ministry’s expansion signals an intent to ramp up our global profile and gain greater influence.

Introduction:
  • Recently cabinet expansion added two new ministers of state to join the ministry of external affairs (MEA).
  • The MEA now has a record total of four ministers catering to India’s foreign relations.
  • Only the ministries of home affairs, education and social justice have a similar strength of four ministers each.
  • Four ministers manning ‘Team MEA’ is a historic development.
Significance of the move:
  • Firstly, in India’s competitive governmental environment, the wisdom of committing more resources to external affairs is often under-appreciated.
  • Secondly, the link between domestic and foreign interests has convinced India’s public about the utility of external commitments.
    • It is a clear demonstration of the high priority to foreign policy and international engagement.
    • A failure to grasp the benefits that accrue from investing in external relations had in the past held back the rise of our country.
  • Thirdly, it will enable India to show a high-level presence in key parts of the world on a sustained basis.
    • In diplomacy, partner nations respect a country when its interlocutors are of a certain standing in protocol and hierarchy.
  • Fourth, due to the paucity of political emissaries of a certain stature, India often has to make do with representation by bureaucrats in gatherings of the United Nations’ agencies, the World Trade Organization, the G20, and several regional and sub-regional groupings.
    • While bureaucrats do the essential nitty-gritty work.
    • But there is no better way to emphasize India’s international leadership than to have a minister at a marquee podium speak about politically sensitive issues.
    • Hence, the symbolic multiplier effects of the four ministers cannot be underestimated. India will come across globally as prepared to lead on big issues.
  • Fifth, it will ensure broader leadership oversight of our foreign policy towards particular regions and management of Indian projects abroad.
    • For example, building plurilateral connectivity corridors and enhancing strategic coordination with partner countries through innovative ideas.
  • Lastly, ministerial expansion is only one way to beef up the MEA.
    • For 2021-22, the MEA got barely 0.52% of the central government’s overall budget.
    • The Parliamentary Standing Committee observed that the allocation is inadequate.
Way forward:
  • The size of the of Indian Foreign Service (IFS) cadre must be considerably enhanced.
  • Initiating short-term contractual appointments of experts under ministers so that India has sufficient personnel and supplementary diplomatic amplifiers to befit a ‘leading power’ in the world.

The MEA should bring in further reforms so that India could one day match China and the US in global presence and impact.

 

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