Parliamentary Panel for External Affairs
The Shashi Tharoor-led Parliamentary Committee on External Affairs expressed concerns over the deteriorating quality of Indian Foreign Service (IFS) recruits. It emphasized that "urgent steps" were required to be taken by the Indian Government to ensure better quality of IFS officers. It also said that India was short on diplomats compared to other powerful countries in the world.
The Committee's view on number of diplomats
"The number of diplomats is an important factor in projecting and promoting a country's national interest and in pro-actively engaging all the countries," the Parliamentary Committee noted.
IFS in comparison to diplomatic services of other nations
Previously, the top 10 rank holders of the Indian Civil Services Exams went on to become IFS officers. However, in 2014 and 2015, the IFS toppers ranked 24th and 14th respectively. Furthermore, India has a diplomatic staff of 2,700 people with only 912 IFS posts. In comparison, USA has a diplomatic staff of 20,000 people, while Japan has 5,700 diplomats and China has 4,500.
MEA's expansion plan for the IFS
In 2008, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) announced expansion plans for the Indian Foreign Service. It planned to create 514 new posts over a period of 10 years. However, the Parliamentary Committee said that the planned expansion would not cover India's diplomatic requirements.
Panel's view on the Civil Services Exam
The Parliamentary Committee on External Affairs said that the present format of the Civil Services Exam was inadequate for the fast changing requirements of diplomatic services jobs. The report suggested introducing new criteria for assessment like "international aptitude, curiosity about the world, knowledge or demonstrated interest in international affairs, communication skills in English and foreign languages" etc. for improving the quality of diplomats.
IFS officers and foreign language proficiency
Foreign language proficiency is a major factor in diplomacy, especially in countries with language barriers. However, the Parliamentary Committee's report on the Indian Foreign Services noted that only 569 IFS officers among the 770 currently in service were proficient in a foreign language.