JEDDAH — A ‘minority’ crisis has hit the top Indian diplomatic positions in Saudi Arabia. The External Affairs Ministry, with a shortage in diplomatic corps, is often faced with a problem over the posting of high-ranking diplomats to the oil-rich kingdom.
Only Muslim officers are posted as Ambassador in Riyadh and Consul General in Jeddah, right from the time of Jawaharlal Nehru to Narendra Modi, the reason cited being the Haj pilgrimage operation. Pakistan sends a higher number of Hajis than India, but its ambassador or consul general have little role to play. Similarly, Russia sends the largest number of pilgrims from Europe but has no Muslim diplomat.
The non-availability of Muslim officers in the Ministry has been a recurring problem whenever New Delhi posts top diplomats in Saudi Arabia as Muslim officers barely constitute one percent in a pool of 800 IFS officers.
Due to lack of rank officers, in the past, IAS officers have also been posted as CG here on deputation. Even in the recent past, top officials who are on the verge of retirement have been given extension. Even junior officers land plum postings.
An IFS officer can become Consul General in a mission of the size of Jeddah only after serving for at least 15 years. The posting is based on the level of seniority designated to the mission and importance to the nation. Vipul of 1998 batch is the current consul general in Dubai while his incoming counterpart in Jeddah, Sadre Alam is from the 2009 batch.
Also, often IFS diplomats are being posted in Saudi Arabia more than once in their career, which is not the case in other countries.
Out of the nearly 9 million Indians living and working in GCC, over 1.54 million live in Saudi Arabia. The kingdom and the UAE combined are biggest source of remittances for the South Asian country which has Muslims –14% to 18% of the population. The huge size of Muslims in India make it the largest Muslim minority community in the world.
With input from Al-Bilad Daily English