Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday forecast an increasingly important role for foreign policy and diplomacy in ensuring the nation’s progress, prosperity and security due to deepening global interdependence and the shifting of the global balance towards Asia. Also, as Indian expatriates, investments and trade grow globally in numbers and significance, promoting and protecting their interests and welfare would become an integral part of diplomacy, the Prime Minister said.

He was speaking to a compact gathering of India’s diplomats, retired and serving, at the Panchavati auditorium in his official residence on the occasion of the second S.K. Singh award for excellence in the Indian Foreign Service.

Perhaps reflecting the twin priorities set out by the Prime Minister in his speech, the awardee was Tanmay Lal for his “extraordinary efforts to protect Indian citizens and safeguard lndia’s interests during the political unrest in Thailand in 2008 and 2009.” The first award was conferred last year on D. Bala Venkatesh Varma for his pivotal role in swinging the Indo-U.S. civil nuclear agreement.

As an official said, Mr. Lal was recognised for protecting the interests of Indians caught up in Thailand’s domestic turmoil, while Mr. Varma was awarded for the civil nuclear deal that will go some distance in alleviating India’s shortage of energy resources.

The Prime Minister also exhorted the strategic community to enhance diplomatic focus on key geographical areas. “South Asia, West Asia and Central Asia, as well as Africa, may not be the easiest places to work in, but they are increasingly important to our future security and prosperity,” he observed.

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