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Monday, Oct 18, 2021
Outlook.com

It’s Menon’s Fault

Many foreign secys have shown the will to speak truth to power

It’s Menon’s Fault
Illustration by Sorit
It’s Menon’s Fault
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

L’affaire Sharm el-Sheikh revived debate about the role of foreign secretary (FS) just days ahead of Shiv Shankar Menon’s retirement. Ironically, controversy had followed his selection in ’06 when two senior officers resigned in protest. The post of FS evokes mystique and glamour. But he or she constantly walks on the razor’s edge. Over the years, successful FSes have never forgotten that foreign policy must constantly filter through domestic, political and public opinion.

In 1947, the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) was moulded from a core of Indian Civil Service (ICS) officers combined with ex-servicemen, a few grandees from ruling families etc. Simultaneously, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru began his role as tutor and guardian of the direct recruits. He even personally interviewed those selected for the IFS, accompanied by their wives if they were married.

As his own foreign minister, Nehru was the resident ideologue of the external affairs ministry, summoning officers up to the level of deputy secretary,...

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