There may never be a better time to upgrade India-US relations, in fact to take them to unprecedented levels of integration and partnership. If nothing else, that is what External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s recent US expedition shows.
Earlier, in sourcing oxygen from all over the world, the ministry which he heads had already shown that it is not only India’s best, but among the most effective in the world. There are both historical and administrative reasons for this.
From our very first, Jawaharlal Nehru, to the present incumbent, Narendra Modi, all Indian prime ministers have taken a special interest in foreign affairs. Several, such as Indira Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, held additional charge of this ministry. Modi too, since he took over as prime minister, has been the real shaper of our foreign policy, although Sushma Swaraj did, and now S. Jaishankar, serves as external affairs minister.
There is another, slightly less noticed but equally obvious reason why the MEA sets a high benchmark for excellence. They are the only ones to have their own dedicated cadre, the Indian Foreign Service (IFS). All other ministries rely on the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), whose bureaucrats can be shifted around in many ministries over a career spanning about thirty-five years.
In the MEA, however, once a diplomat, always a diplomat. The best exemplar of this hallowed tradition of excellence is India’s current external affairs minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.