An Indian foreign ministry scam has allegedly hit the country's efforts to woo foreign nations, giving a new twist to an old adage: Beware of wonks bearing gifts.
According to the Hindustan Times, officials at the Ministry of External Affairs may have been involved in a scheme to send fake gifts to the Malaysian prime minister and other dignitaries last May — and billing the gifts to the government at highly inflated prices.
Here's a thought: Why not avoid sending gifts altogether? The amount of junk accrued by government officials around the world must dwarf even the pile of confiscated pen knives and water bottles collected at airports. And I doubt seriously that a brass bowl or a hand-woven sari ever resulted in a change of policy.
Moreover, as an official in the ministry's own public diplomacy division put it to me last week: It's not at all clear that the government should be leading the “soft power” initiative to begin with — considering that private outfits like Bollywood production houses do such a superior job.