Even though the merger of Ministry of Indian Overseas Affairs (MoIA) with Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) emanated from Prime Minister Modi’s most applauded vision of “Minimum Government and Maximum Governance”; there is a growing feeling in the NaMo administration whether the move of merger was preceded by due diligence. The reasoning is that central and all-India services, unlike the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), have a better understanding, experience and knowledge of the Indian people and their psyche by virtue of having worked in field posting and involvement with policy formulations at the grass root level or at the top.
For instance, the largest constituent of Indian migrants is made up of workers, professionals, engineers, doctors, technicians, etc. Their attitude to life and their mindset are best appreciated by members of all-India services as the latter is rooted in the country’s dust and heat like the migrants. On the other hand, IFS officers live an exclusive life, mostly away from the shores of India. They may have an inkling of what Indian life is all about, and may be able to project India better in the Indian diaspora of the West, but they may just not click with their stiff upper lip approach with migrant workers and professionals as vividly shown in the latest Hindi movie Airlift.
While the PM’s approach to a unified approach to a problem is generally appreciated, it’s felt that the MOIA, set up by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, was a better option. Indeed, the great awareness about India and its way of life in Western and eastern diaspora as well as quick resolution of problems of migrants are some of the gains of having a different ministry for overseas Indians. Adding the MOIA to the MEA may lead to distraction in foreign policy execution at a critical time when the global economy is sliding and new trouble spots are popping up Syria to South China sea.
Overall, the issue is not of turf domination but of effectiveness in achieving desired goals.