London: Britain is working to expand its diplomatic staff substantially by 2015, with the biggest increases in India and China, Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Wednesday.
Citing diplomatic network as an essential infrastructure of Britain`s influence in the world, Hague said the country will not only be setting new embassies and consulates in the coming years but will also augment the strength of its diplomatic staff in several countries.
A major boost is being given to diplomacy in emerging economies, with a substantial increase in staff in several countries, particularly in India and China.
"... By 2015 we will have opened up to 11 new British embassies and eight new consulates or trade offices, and sent 300 extra staff to over 22 countries in the emerging economies..... But with the biggest increases in frontline staff in India and China," said Hague.
The countries where more staff is being sent include Myanmar, Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan, Mongolia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Angola, Botswana, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Panama, Peru, Pakistan, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Speaking on `Diplomatic Tradecraft` at the British Academy here, Hague said: "We are the only European country that is setting out consciously to expand their diplomatic network in this way, and we are investing in our country`s future influence".
"Having an Embassy or post flying the British flag really matters, and creates an effect that can never be replicated by a diplomat with a laptop however hard they work. That is why we have drawn a line under the closures of Embassies and High Commissions that took place under the last government".
Besides augmenting numbers, the Foreign Office has also launched efforts to create expertise and provide thematic training to staff members.
"We have a new Expertise Fund to deepen thematic and geographical policy expertise across the Foreign Office. It has funded, for example, the creation of an India cadre enabling diplomats to study Indian culture, politics and history in India itself before their posting.
"We have set up new training for staff working in the energy sector, to give British diplomats an edge in competitive market and a greater understanding of business priorities," he said.
He said Britian has also launched a new initiative to challenge the use of rape as a weapon of war and is calling for a concerted international effort to increase the number of prosecutions to shatter the culture of impunity.
"We will use our Presidency of the G8 next year to launch work on a new International Protocol in the areas of prosecutions for sexual violence and the protection of victims, and we have set up our own team of experts in the Foreign Office which we will be able to deploy to support investigations in conflict-affected areas," he said.