Thursday, May 26, 2022

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MEA: India’s Strategic Connect with the World

A public diplomacy is an important tool for projecting a country’s soft power to the rest of the world. It involves activities usually undertaken by the government to inform and influence foreign public opinion and attitudes in order to advance its foreign policy objectives.

Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is communicating a favorable image of the country in a digitally connected world that involves both government and non-government associations. It conducts activities that include nation-branding, diaspora outreach, digital engagement, international broadcasting, and international exchange programmes, and are designed to promote a positive image and reputation of the country to a global audience.

Policy Planning and Research (PP &R) Division of MEA supports autonomous bodies such as the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) and the Research and Information Systems (RIS). It also supports events, studies, conferences, and seminars by various think tanks and institutions. MEA also participates in and supports major conferences including Raisina Dialogue, Indian Ocean Conference, Global Technology Summit, India-US Forum, and West Asia Conference.

A digital connect:

Since the launch of its website in 2003, the MEA’s online presence has grown phenomenally as Indian Missions have gone online and are actively communicating with locals in host countries and the diaspora.

Documentaries are showcased that are aimed at specific target audiences to reach out to diverse audiences. ‘India: A Science and technology Superpower’ focuses on India’s scientific temper and achievements; ‘Ramayana: A shared culture in India and Southeast Asia’ targets Southeast Asian audiences through the common underlying theme of mythology; whereas ‘India-Bangladesh: Beyond Borders’ narrates the bilateral Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) and short films like ‘India-Afghanistan: An enduring friendship’ underscores the role of soccer in boosting Indo-Afghan friendship. Indeed, the opportunities for taking communication to new heights have been achieved well by the MEA.

List of Diplomatic Missions in India & Indian Diplomatic Missions abroad:

There are about 100 Foreign Embassies and 136 Consulates placed in the territory of India. India itself has a total count of 89 Embassies and 108 Consulates spread all over the world. All the officers function under the guidance and supervision of the Ambassador

Functions of the Embassy inter alia, include political and economic cooperation, trade and investment, cultural interaction, press and media liaison, bilateral/multilateral contacts, rendering consular services.

Services:

Offsite Passport Seva Camps and Melas at PSK

Passport Seva camps are organized at several locations to cater to the demand for passports and to reach out to people located far away. The Passport Offices also organizes weekend Passport Melas to address difficulties faced by citizens in obtaining appointments and to meet increased demand for passport services.

Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) Card Scheme

On the recommendation of a High-Level Committee on Indian Diaspora, the Government launched the Overseas Citizenship of India Card scheme in August 2005 for persons of Indian Origin.

Consular Issues

Indian Missions/Posts render various consular services like attestation of various categories of documents, registration of birth and death of Indian nationals & issue of birth and death certificates, facilitating transportation of mortal remains of Indian nationals back to India, registration of marriage of Indian nationals, consular access for Indian nationals lodged in foreign jails, serving summons of Indian courts to Indian nationals residing abroad, providing welfare assistance, etc.

Missions/Posts also advise, assist, and guide the Indian community when required, and conducts Consular Camps at different locations to address grievances and provide timely assistance to Indian nationals. In Gulf countries where there are large numbers of Indian workers,  Missions and Posts have specialized Community Welfare Wings and Labour Wings.

Extradition

The MEA has been actively pursuing negotiations with various countries for bilateral extradition treaties to provide a legal and institutional framework to prosecute people involved in international terrorism, financial frauds, drug trafficking, and other transnational organized crimes. It is the policy of the Government to conclude Extradition treaties with as many countries as possible to ensure that fugitive criminal do not escape justice.

The MEA also facilitates negotiations for agreements on Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in Criminal Matters, Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in Civil and Commercial Matters, and Agreement on Transfer of Sentenced Persons.

To facilitate the extradition of fugitive offenders, the Government of India has signed extradition treaties with 50 countries as of date. Besides, India has entered Extradition arrangements with 11 countries. In the year 2020, two fugitive criminals were extradited by foreign countries to India.

Wings:

Policy Planning and Research Division

The Policy Planning and Research Division is the Ministry’s nodal division for policy planning and organizing public diplomacy initiatives in collaboration with the strategic and academic communities. It regularly conducts in-house policy analysis for the Ministry and participates in flagship conference initiatives with Indian and international think tanks and research institutions.

Public Diplomacy Outreach

During 2020-21, the Division considerably enhanced the Ministry’s engagement with the strategic community by institutionalizing interaction with high functionaries. The Division organized multiple rounds of the interaction of senior ministry officials with select domain experts and academics. By collaborating with Indian and international think tanks, the Division facilitated Track 1.5 Dialogues with Canada, the EU, Japan, South Korea, and the United States in 2020-21.

Economic Diplomacy Division

The Economic Diplomacy Division, as part of its efforts to give a focused direction to the economic diplomacy dimension of the country’s foreign policy, has undertaken a number of initiatives. India is in the process of concluding its old-generation investment treaties and is actively engaged in bilateral investment treaty negotiations with over 30 countries based on the 2015 model treaty.

Legal and Treaties Division

The Legal and Treaties Division is in charge of all legal and treaty-related matters pertaining to the Ministry. During the period 2020-21, India signed 120 agreements with 52 countries and organizations, ratified 15 agreements, and processed full powers for ten undertakings.

Cyber Diplomacy, E-Governance & IT Division

This Division deals with international cyber issues, at bilateral and multilateral levels.

Counter-Terrorism

India on several occasions has reiterated its commitment to combating the menace of terrorism globally and strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. India currently engages with senior interlocutors of 25 countries and regional and plurilateral groupings such as European Union, BIMSTEC and BRICS through the Mechanism of Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism (JWG-CT).

Disarmament and International Security Affairs

Amidst an evolving global landscape on disarmament, nonproliferation, and international security affairs, it is engaged in and active in relevant multilateral forums and with partner countries based on India’s national security interests and traditionally valued role.

Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA)

The ICWA has continued to place a high value on research and analysis of political, economic, and security developments in Asia, Africa, Europe, the United States, the Indo-Pacific Region, and the broader global geostrategic environment.

RIS

The Research and Information System for Developing Countries is an autonomous policy research institute that focuses on the issues related to international economic development, trade, investment, and technology. It encourages developing countries to engage in effective policy dialogue and capacity building on global and regional economic issues.  The primary focus is on promoting South-South Cooperation and collaborating with developing countries in multilateral negotiations in various forums. RIS seeks to strengthen policy coherence on international economic issues and the development partnership canvas through its extensive network of think tanks.

External Publicity

External Publicity and Public Diplomacy Division continued with its efforts to effectively articulate India’s position on key foreign policy issues in accordance with its mandate. Simultaneously, pro-active efforts to project the ‘India Story’ and other notable achievements of the country to an international audience continued apace. While the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic presented their own set of challenges, with the creative use of virtual platforms, the Ministry was able to maintain the momentum of its activities during the year. Due press coverage was given to over 13 virtual summits at the Prime Ministerial level, to over 34 ministerial meetings at the level of EAM, and 7 visits by EAM until January 2021. A training module on social media for all Heads of Missions and Posts in October 2020 was organized.

ICCR

ICCR actively participates in the formulation and implementation of policies and events pertaining to India’s external cultural relations. During the period from 1 April to 31 October 2020, ICCR had 57 operational Chairs across the globe. It facilitated the celebration of the International Day of Yoga -2020 in 147 Countries through 114 Indian Missions and 39 posts.

Sushma Swaraj Institute of Foreign Service

Foreign Service Institute (FSI) was renamed to Sushma Swaraj Institute of Foreign Service (SSIFS) in honour of former EAM, Late Sushma Swaraj. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Institute has started a blended learning approach to conduct training programmes both online and on-campus sessions.

Development Cooperation

Inspired by the spirit of ‘VasudhaivaKutumbakam’, India’s international development cooperation continued to expand during the years in its geographical reach as well as in the areas of cooperation. A key aspect of India’s development assistance in the past few years has been the extension of Lines of Credit to other developing countries. 13 new LoCs of about USD 1.9 billion were extended to various countries, and 6 LoC Projects were completed in 2020-21.

Summits & Conference Division

Conference Division provides all logistical arrangements to various Divisions of the Ministry in organizing meetings, events, seminars, conferences including international & multilateral involvement of Foreign Ministers, delegates in India and abroad. In view of the specific nature of organizing events involving protocol, the security of delegates, and the highest degree of precision, Conference Division has empaneled 8 Event Management Companies (EMCs). The selection of EMC for the event is done as per the requirements of the concerned division of the Ministry.

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