By: Pramod Thomas
NEW figures have revealed that around 50 per cent of British-based diplomatic jobs in countries like India, Pakistan and China have been cut in recent years, the Guardian reported.
The numbers working for embassies and consulates in these key Indo-Pacific countries have all been diminishing over the last seven years.
The massive job cuts in these countries are happening at a time when the government promotes these countries as key places to deepen ties in the coming decade.
In March 2021, ministers announced plans to pursue an Indo-Pacific tilt and make Britain the country with the broadest and most integrated presence in the region as part of the ‘integrated review’.
According to the report, the number of British-based Foreign Office staff in the Pakistan embassy and consulate is between 50-59 now, a sharp fall from between 110 and 119 in 2015.
The dip over the same seven-year period was from 70-79 to 40-49 in India. The number in the China embassy and consulates dropped by around a third, from 110-119 to 70-79.
The figures came from the Foreign Office minister David Rutley, in response to written parliamentary questions by the Labour frontbencher Catherine West.
The Guardian report said that in 2018, the Foreign Office and international development department conducted 37 ministerial trips to the region. But by 2022, the number of ministerial trips had been reduced to just 12.
Also, the Foreign Office was unable to verify 100 per cent exactly which heads of government from the Asia/Pacific region were both invited to and subsequently attended the state funeral of the Queen last year.
Meanwhile a Foreign Office spokesperson downplayed the significance of the figures, claiming that the figures did not provide the real picture of Britain’s presence in the region.
The spokesperson said: “The reality of our commitment to the Indo-Pacific is shown by results on the ground. In the last three years alone, we have launched the Aukus partnership, signed defence partnerships with Japan and trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand – as well as doubling the number of high commissions we have in the Pacific Islands”.
The report said that the reduction in headcount of UK-based staff in China and India is partly due to Covid. Foreign Office also said that the number of British high commissions across the Pacific Island countries have increased in the past three years.
Official statistics also revealed that UK’s trade with the Indo-Pacific was increased 16.4 per cent year-on-year from autumn 2021 to 2022[TheChamp-Sharing]