He wants diplomats to respond with humility and urgency to needs of Indian nationals abroad

Away from the culture of high browed diplomacy, External Affairs Minister, S.M. Krishna is prodding Indian diplomats to shift course and become more people-oriented.

Addressing ambassadors of the West Asia and North Africa (WANA) region, the Minister made it plain that diplomats need to make a conscious effort to shed elitism, and respond with humility and urgency to the needs of Indian nationals abroad – especially those in distress.

The “Krishna doctrine” will find further amplification in the days to come. He will carry a similar message when he travels, soon after the Cairo visit, to Singapore, where a similar meeting of Indian ambassadors posted in South-East Asia is being held. That will be followed by another meeting next month in Abu Dhabi of Indian envoys posted in the Gulf region.

After the parliament session, Mr. Krishna plans to travel to Europe to personally convey his message of outreach – that for diplomats, the welfare of the India community is as important as their role in projecting the country's foreign policy.

“When it comes to looking after the Indian community, Mr. Krishna's natural instincts of a former chief minister come to the fore,” said a member of the Minister's personal staff who did not wish to be named.

He pointed out that several episodes, including the trouble faced earlier by Indians in Australia; the incidents of violence in the United Kingdom and the recent child custody row in Norway have sharpened Mr. Krishna's focus on reaching out to Indians in distress through the channel of Indian embassies and consulates.

Diplomatic sources said there have been incidents of unduly delays in repatriation of bodies of those who died abroad. The Minister wants such incidents to be a thing of the past.

To shoulder the expanded workload, changes were being made in the administrative structure of the Indian missions. Dedicated welfare officers would soon be posted in embassies and they will be accessible to the community round-the-clock. A weekly “open day” would be designated where interaction with the community at a mass level would be possible.

Complementing this effort, the ambassadors would be asked to earmark two hours every week to address the needs of Indians in distress. Under a new accountability system, they would monitor the official response to the complaints, including time lines within which they have been addressed.

During his conversation with the diplomats, Mr. Krishna urged them to look for “innovative solutions” in order to provide efficient and high quality consular services to Indians living abroad, whose size has been growing exponentially in recent years.

Analysts point out that while Mr. Krishna's initiative is likely to be widely welcomed, the new initiative might have to harmonised with the existing mandate of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, so that an inter-ministerial “turf war” in the future can be avoided.

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