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.
- 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.
- 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.