New Delhi: To arrest
the alarming decline in the standards of spoken and written
English among Indian diplomats, a separate entrance exam must be
held for aspiring Indian Foreign Service (IFS) personnel to test
language proficiency, says veteran diplomat Prem K. Budhwar.
Both the written test and the subsequent interview or personality
test should be conducted in English alone for those desiring a
spot in foreign service, Budhwar says in his new 174-page book.
This, he says, is necessary to check the slipping standards of
English in the service.
While many countries were putting special emphasis on knowing
English well and fast, "here in India we are gradually eroding
this inherited advantage in the name of promoting the national
language," Budhwar says in "Making of a Diplomat" (Konark).
"If Indian diplomats expect to continue to play an active role on
the world scene, then it will be professionally and even socially
almost suicidal to forego proficiency in the English language.
"In a disturbing recent trend, the FSTI (Foreign Service Training
Institute) in Delhi has had to organise special coaching in
English for some of the young entrants into the IFS," he said.
"This is not only a far cry from the earlier days but reflective
of a myopic approach to building up a truly fine and efficient
Foreign Service cadre.
"This must be arrested before it is too late, and one way of doing
so again would be a separate entrance examination for the IFS with
English as the medium, both for the written test as well as
subsequent interview or personality test.
"As with the earlier generations of Indian diplomats, there need
to be no clash between proficiency in English alongside a good
working knowledge of Hindi even if it is not your mother tongue."
Budhwar, who joined the foreign service in 1962, ended his three
and a half decades of diplomatic career as India's High
Commissioner in Canada.
He has served in important positions both at home and abroad.
Budhwar went on: "Proficiency in English has become almost a must
for a diplomat. Those without this asset most certainly will and
do feel handicapped while operating internationally...
"Let us not play games with this crucial aspect merely in the name
of narrow minded nationalism or a misplaced sense of patriotism.
"This is just one example to bring out the legitimate concerns
expressed, from time to time, over the evolving quality of the
Indian Foreign Service and its future."
Budhwar's book is like a guide for serving and aspiring diplomats.
It deals with different aspects of diplomacy, protocol,
hospitality, selection of diplomatic envoy, diplomatic immunities
and privileges, role of a foreign service wife, diplomatic
contacts, gift culture, preparing for important visits and
delegations, domestic help, as well as changing profile of the
Indian Foreign Service.