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PM Dr. Manmohan Singh's remarks on the occasion of the conferment of SK Singh Award for 2011

Tuesday, January 22, 2013
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New Delhi: Following is the text of the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh’s remarks on the occasion of the conferment of SK Singh Award for 2011, in New Delhi today:

“I am delighted to join all of you for the presentation of the S.K. Singh Award for Excellence, professionalism and innovation in the Foreign Service for the year 2011. It is a particular pleasure to see so many members of the Foreign Service family gathered here, and I welcome each one of them. 

I wish to begin by thanking Smt Manju Singh and her family for instituting this award in the memory of a very dear friend of mine, the late Shri S. K. Singh, a diplomat of great skill and a remarkably versatile public servant, deeply committed to the value system embedded in our Constitution, and committed also to serving our country with great distinction. I remember him from my days in Cambridge, when he was a Foreign Service probationer, and I was studying at St. John’s College. Our friendship started then, way back in the 1950s, and till his sad demise, I think, we were in touch with each other on numerous occasions. On this occasion, we miss him sorely. I personally, have very fond memories of my own association with SK, from the time we were both at Cambridge in the fifties. Today, we remember him not only for his illustrious career, but also for his decades of deep and abiding commitment to excellence and service with integrity. I have no doubt that this Award will inspire generations of younger IFS officers to follow in the footsteps of Shri S.K. Singh, and also highlight the critical and difficult role our diplomats play across the world. 

I warmly congratulate Shri Tanmaya Lal of the Indian Foreign Service for being chosen for this singular honour and I commend his outstanding service to our country. His professional contributions to our bilateral and multilateral relations throughout his career and his public service, often in very tough places, such as Thailand, make him a worthy recipient of this special recognition. The mettle of civil servants is often tested in difficult circumstances and challenging environments. This is particularly true outside India, where resources at the disposal of our diplomats are limited and the environment can be often very unsupportive. 

Serving abroad and frequent relocation also require great support and sacrifices from the families, who often do not get the requisite acknowledgement. I would, therefore, like to make a special mention today of the role that Foreign Service wives and members of families play and compliment Shri Lal’s family on his receiving this honour. 

India is in transition in a fast-changing world. The external and internal environment that our nation faces has changed beyond recognition since the Indian Foreign Service was set up. Yet, our engagement with the world continues to be driven by the enduring objectives of creating an enabling environment for our national development goals; ensuring the security of the nation; and fulfilling our international responsibilities. 

As global inter-dependence and integration deepen, as the centre of gravity of global challenges and opportunities shifts to our region, and as India engages more with the world, foreign policy and diplomacy will remain key factors in our progress, prosperity and our security. 

Our diplomats must lead our efforts for fostering a climate for peace, stability and security for our country, and in safeguarding our interests in international negotiations of far-reaching consequences in an increasingly inter-dependent world that we live in. Equally, they have to play a crucial role in our economic development, advancing our energy and food security, and helping our country to catch the next wave of science, technology, innovation and education. 

Further, as Indian expatriates, investment and trade grow globally in numbers and significance, promoting and protecting their interests and welfare have become an integral part of our diplomacy. 

While sharpening our functional skills and developing an awareness of cross-cutting global issues such as climate change, trade and security, it is important also to enhance our diplomatic focus on key geographical areas. South Asia, West Asia, Central Asia, South-East and East Asia as well as Africa may not be the easiest places to work in, but they are becoming increasingly important to our future security and prosperity, and as such, they require increased and intensive engagement. 

The Indian Foreign Service has always produced officers who are well-trained in the craft of diplomacy. However, they must supplement this by constant intellectual renewal to deal with a complex and fast-changing world. Close partnerships with all other wings of our government as well as the civil society in its broadest sense are equally important. They should master the revolution taking place in the world of information and communication. Above all, they should continue to be guided by the fundamental spirit of service to our country and to our people. 

Our country has been blessed to be served by generations of extraordinary diplomats, some of whom are present in this room today. The late Shri S.K. Singh was an outstanding example of one such diplomat who combined scholarship with statesmanship, and hard negotiating skills with unfailing courtesy. I cannot do much better in recommending a role model to future generations of our Foreign Service officers. 

I have no doubt that the present generation of Foreign Service officers, including the most recent entrants, will bring their commitment, dedication and skills to bear upon their onerous responsibilities. Our government remains committed to empowering and equipping them, not just in terms of numbers, but also in terms of infrastructure, system supports and capabilities, so that they continue to help India address the opportunities and challenges of this century. I am confident that the Service will scale greater heights in the years to come.” 

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