PM honours IFS officer Tanmaya Lal with SK Singh award
Tanmaya Lal, a Indian Foreign Service officer of the 1991 batch, was called back to New Delhi from Kenyan capital Nairobi where he was recently posted under the excuse of some "official duty".
Upon returning home, Lal was surprised when he was informed that he had been selected for the second S K Singh award for outstanding Foreign Service.
The jury comprising Vice President Hamid Ansari, National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai, S K Singh's widow Manju Singh and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, kept the news a well-guarded secret.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offered the grand venue for the award ceremony at his 7, Race Course Road residence.
Lal was given the award for his stupendous efforts to help 15,000 Indians in Thailand in 2008 when the country was up in flames following mass unrest and the Bangkok airport was closed for many days.
Lal was deputy chief of mission in Bangkok when he helped evacuate then Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath and Commerce Secretary G K Pillai from Pattaya in April 2009.
The award, given in memory of former foreign secretary S K Singh, was instituted by the Singh family's Jai Surendra Trust in partnership with the ministry of external affairs.
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Image: Dr Manmohan Singh presenting the S K Singh Award for recognising excellence in the Indian Foreign Service, to Tanmaya Lal. Also seen are External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi
'Mettle of civil servants is often tested in difficult circumstances'
According to S K Singh's widow Manju, Dr Singh knew her husband since the 1950s.
"They used to travel together to England. The friendship survived many decades," she said.
Speaking at the occasion, Dr Singh said, "I remember him (S K Singh) 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."
Lauding Lal, Dr Singh said, "I warmly congratulate 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."
He added, "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."
The event had over 50 retired and serving diplomats who were friends of S K Singh.
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Image: Prime Minister addressing the gathering
'India is in transition in a fast-changing world'
The prime minister, while talking about the international environment, said: "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."
"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."
National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, while remembering S K Singh, said that during crisis of the Bangladesh war -- when the world opinion was critical for India -- Singh, as officer in external publicity division, played an outstanding role in influencing international coverage and eventually the worldview.