Shortage of Muslim officers haunting Indian missions in Saudi

Irfan Mohammed

Jeddah: A minority crisis has been affecting top Indian diplomatic positions in Saudi Arabia. The external affairs ministry with insufficient strength of diplomatic corps is often facing tough time over posting high-ranking diplomats to oil-rich Kingdom.

Only Muslim officers being posted as Ambassador in Riyadh and Consul General in Jeddah from Nehru to Modi era; the cited reason is Haj pilgrimage operation. The Pakistan that sends higher number of Hajis than India yet its ambassador or consul general have little role to play, similarly Russia sends largest pilgrims from Europe has no Muslim diplomat.

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The non-availability of Muslim officers in the ministry is recurring subject whenever New Delhi posts top diplomats in Saudi Arabia as Muslim officers barely constitute one percent in a pool of 800 IFS officers.

Due to lack of rank officers, in the past IAS officers also posted as CG here on deputation and also some political appointments at Ambassador level. Even in recent past, retiring and tenure ended top officials given extension. Even junior officers landing in plum postings.

An IFS officer would become Consul General in a mission of Jeddah size only after serving nearly 15 years. The posting is based on the level of seniority designated to the mission and importance to the nation. Vipul of 1998 batch is current consul general in Dubai whereas his incoming counterpart in Jeddah, Sadre Alam of 2009 batch.

Also, often IFS diplomats being posted in Saudi Arabia more than once in their career, which is not the case in other countries. Some Muslim diplomats not eager to come Saudi Arabia as they prefer for global bodies and other parts of the world.

India is actively expanding its reach across the globe and engaged with most of key nations, however a shortage of diplomats hindering the Prime Minister Narendra Modi foreign policy goals. India is lagging behind China, Korea and Brazil in diplomatic strength. There are about 800 IFS officers in the ministry against sanctioned cadre strength of class – A of 912, which is itself is short.

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