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Ministry of External Affairs

The Ministry of External Affairs is the governmental body most concerned with foreign affairs, with responsibility for some aspects of foreign policy making, actual implementation of policy, and daily conduct of international relations. The ministry's duties include providing timely information and analysis to the prime minister and minister of external affairs, recommending specific measures when necessary, planning policy for the future, and maintaining communications with foreign missions in New Delhi. In 1994 the ministry administered 149 diplomatic missions abroad, which were staffed largely by members of the Indian Foreign Service. The ministry is headed by the minister of external affairs, who holds cabinet rank and is assisted by a deputy minister and a foreign secretary, and secretaries of state from the Indian Foreign Service.

In 1994 the total cadre strength of the Indian Foreign Service numbered 3,490, of which some 1,890 held posts abroad and 1,600 served at the Ministry of External Affairs headquarters in New Delhi. Members of the Indian Foreign Service are recruited through annual written and oral competitive examinations and come from a great variety of regional, economic, and social backgrounds. The Foreign Service Training Institute provides a wide range of courses for foreign service officers, including a basic professional course, a comprehensive course in diplomacy and international relations for foreign service recruits, a refresher course for commercial representatives, and foreign language training.

The Ministry of External Affairs has thirteen territorial divisions, each covering a large area of the world, such as Eastern Europe and the post-Soviet states, or smaller areas on India's periphery, such as Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. The ministry also has functional divisions dealing with external publicity, protocol, consular affairs, Indians abroad, the United Nations (UN) and other international organizations, and international conferences. Two of the eighteen specialized divisions and units of the ministry are of special note. The Policy Planning and Research Division conducts research and prepares briefs and background papers for top policy makers and ministry officials. The briefs cover wide-ranging issues relating to India's foreign policy and role in the changing international environment, and background papers provide information on issues concerning international developments. The Economic Division has the important task of handling foreign economic relations. This division augments its activities to reflect changes in the government's economic policy and the international economic environment (see Liberalization in the Early 1990s, ch. 6). In 1990 the division established the Economic Coordination Unit to assess the impact on India of the Persian Gulf crisis arising from Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, changes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and formation of a single market in the European Economic Community (after 1993 the European Union), as well as to promote foreign investment. The Economic Division also runs India's foreign aid programs, including the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme, the Special Commonwealth African Assistance Programme, and aid to individual developing countries in South Asia and elsewhere. The ministry runs the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, which arranges exhibits, visits, and cultural exchanges with other countries and oversees the activities of foreign cultural centers in India.

The Ministry of External Affairs had a budget of Rs8.8 billion (for value of the rupee--see Glossary) for fiscal year (FY--see Glossary) 1994. The largest single expense was the maintenance of missions abroad: Rs3.8 billion, or close to 44 percent of the ministry's expenditures. Foreign aid totaled Rs1.3 billion, or 15.1 percent of the ministry's expenditures. The single largest recipient--as in most previous years--was Bhutan (Rs690 million), whose government operations and development are heavily subsidized by India.

Other Government Organizations

Besides the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of External Affairs, there are other government agencies that have foreign policy-making roles. In theory, the ministers of defence, commerce, and finance provide input to foreign policy decisions discussed in cabinet meetings, but their influence in practical terms is overshadowed by the predominant position of the prime minister and his advisers. The armed forces are removed from policy making and have influence only through the minister of defence, to whom they are subordinate (see Organization and Equipment of the Armed Forces, ch. 10).

Only a limited role in foreign policy making is provided for India's bicameral Parliament (see The Legislature, ch. 8). Negotiated treaties and international agreements become legally binding on the state but are not part of domestic law unless passed by an act of Parliament, which also has no say in the appointment of diplomats and other government representatives dealing with foreign affairs. For the most part, because of the widespread domestic support for India's foreign policy, Parliament has endorsed government actions or sought information. The most important official link between Parliament and the executive in the mid-1990s is the Committee on External Affairs of the Lok Sabha (House of the People), the lower chamber of Parliament. The committee meets regularly and draws its membership from many parties. Usually it has served either as a forum for government briefings or as a deliberative body.

Data as of September 1995

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