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”.
“If Indian diplomats expect to continue to play an active role on the world scene, 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.” he said.
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.