THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
Kishan Rana is an author, teacher and former ambas-
sador for India. He is currently an honorary fellow at the
Institute of Chinese Studies in Delhi.
n interesting new criterion has emerged
to assess foreign ministry performance.
Some analysts believe that the serious-
ness and care with which a foreign
ministry handles diplomatic training is
a powerful proxy indicator of the effi-
cacy of that ministry. Several elements
lie behind this.
Training represents an investment in
the future; like all investments, it should be examined in terms of
the value delivered. Besides financial resources, there is also the
investment of time by officials, trainees and training organizers
to be considered. After all, a foreign ministry’s most valuable
assets are the people it employs, not its fine embassy buildings
and the outward diplomacy spectacle.
A diplomat would do well to ask: How does the system in my
country reflect these facts in its training programs? One might
add another key query: Given that half or more of the diplomats
are stationed abroad at any point of time, do we use the distance
learning option? And if not, why not?
The U.K. Model’s Novel Features
In January 2015, the British Foreign and Commonwealth
Office established the Diplomatic Academy with features and
In foreign ministries around the world, training is undergoing
intensification and expansion.
BY K I SHAN RANAapproaches that deserve attention. (See “The Diplomatic Acad- emy: A First for Britain’s Foreign Office” by Jon Davies, Foreign
, July-August 2015.)
With the FCO abandoning its earlier stand that all needed skills
will come “on the job,” a holdout against professional training
has fallen. Some years earlier, the Quai d’Orsay had established
its training institution. The U.S. National Foreign Affairs Train-
ing Center (still referred to as FSI, the Foreign Service Institute),
established in 1947, was an important resource for the FCO in
developing the Diplomatic Academy. Like the United States and
France, the U.K. will not conduct lengthy induction courses for
new entrants. Instead, they have opted for what I call a “focused
selective training” model, which is practiced by Australia, France,
the United States and others. In this model new entrants receive
an orientation and then get to work at the ministry; newly
appointed officials also attend short courses on specific themes.
The alternate model—“full-time entry training”—is practiced
by Germany, India and almost all of the Latin American coun-
tries. Courses run for 12 to 24 months. During this time, new
entrants are also exposed to work at the ministry and embassies
abroad, but for short sessions. This means that even after joining
the diplomatic service, trainees do not get to do full-time work
until they graduate a year or two later. Malaysia’s hybrid model
is interesting—after initial orientation, new entrants get to work
at the foreign ministry, going to a full-time, four- to six-month
training course at the end of about two years, before their first
overseas assignment. It is an excellent combination of both
Four aspects of the U.K.’s Diplomatic Academy are striking.
ON DIPLOMATIC TRADECRAFT