MEA Set to be Overhauled for First Time since Independence

Foreign Affairs

New Delhi: In what is seen as External Affairs Minister (EAM) Dr S Jaishankar putting his stamp in the crucial Ministry, there are plans for bringing far reaching changes which includes creating verticals in specific areas which will help in decentralising the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

Areas which do not require diplomatic involvement in the consular section and other routine administrative affairs are expected to be separated from areas where diplomacy is involved. And these are areas like economics, energy, trade, development, technology and cultural exchanges.

The major revamp of the structure will change departments and reporting structure which will empower seven different Additional Secretaries who will focus on long term solutions rather than fire-fighting.

Soon after taking over office as the new Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla earlier in the week sent out three orders – through the different verticals created and are now going to be managed by the Additional Secretaries and these include cultural diplomacy which will be handled by Dinesh Patnaik; followed by the economic and trade coordination which goes to P Harish; multinational organisations as well as global summits like the UN, G-20, BRICS which are now going to be managed by Vikram Doraiswami.

The Development Partnership division will be going to Akhilesh Mishra, all of West Asia and Africa is under Nagma Mallick and Neena Malhotra will manage the Indian Ocean and Indo-Pacific region, and all of Europe has been given to Suresh Reddy.

At part of its restructuring plans, the MEA is looking towards hiring experts from not only the private sector but also from non-profit bodies as well. Until now like all other ministries, the MEA has been a pyramid-like structure with lot of work pressure on Joint Secretaries and the four Secretaries.

Among other changes at the level of the Secretary; Sanjay Bhattacharya, former Ambassador to Turkey who is currently Secretary (Consular, Passport, Visa and Overseas Indian Affairs) Division will also be in charge of the Gulf and West Asia/ North Africa (WANA) divisions.

There are about eight million Indian expatriates living in the Gulf and WANA region and accounts for more than 60 per cent of India’s inbound remittances.

Now, the “External Publicity” (XP) the media and public relations division will work under Secretary (West) Vikas Swarup, who has earlier been the official spokesperson of the MEA.

Joint Secretary Gopal Baglay, who is moving to Colombo in Sri Lanka as India’s High Commissioner will be replaced by 1999 batch Indian Foreign Service officer Rudra Gaurav Shresth as Officer on Special Duty (OSD) in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).