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Newsline: India revives tradition of having diplomats in defence ministry

The Modi government has decided to revive the past tradition of a senior diplomat being posted in the ministry of defence (MoD) so that military purchases are made keeping emerging geo-political relationships in mind. The decision has been taken at the highest levels in consultation with the two ministries concerned. Official sources said a senior diplomat will soon be sent on deputation from the external affairs ministry to the defence ministry to man the planning and international cooperation desk so that India’s military purchases could be leveraged in long-term diplomacy. The post of joint secretary (P&IC) was handed over to IAS officers during the UPA II regime in January 2009 with Ambassador Debnath Shaw being the last diplomat to handle this desk. This vital post was handled by IAS officers Smita Nagaraj and NK Choudhary from 2009-2015. The post, now vacant, had become a symbol of tug of war between the IAS and IFS, with the latter accusing the former of not understanding defence diplomacy and delaying acquisition of vital hardware due to lack of global vision. Then defence minister AK Antony was, however, not too keen to have a diplomat in defence ministry as he felt that diplomatic inputs were already coming from the external affairs ministry. It is understood that Prime Minister Narendra Modi in consultation with defence minister Manohar Parrikar has given a green signal to placement of a diplomat in the heart of the armed forces establishment.



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