White Elephants

One of the most lucrative jobs in the world is to be a foreign diplomat. The perks and privileges of this job are enormous. The diplomats have diplomatic immunity and roam around freely in their designated countries. They live in the most expensive and posh areas under tight security. The expenses of these embassies and consulates hardly come under the scrutiny of the taxpayers who bear the costs. Just to have an idea, it was a staggering amount of 750 million US dollars to build a US embassy in Iraq. The most appalling reality is that this extravagance is not confined to just rich countries. The very poor countries of Africa and Asia have their own shares of luxury and comforts for their diplomatic staff. I was stunned to see some of the diplomatic mansions of Somalia and Ethiopia inside the diplomatic quarters of Saudi Arabia. It does not matter where one goes, the embassies and the consulates of foreign countries exhibit the glamour and style quite contrary to the standard of living of their countrymen back home.

What these foreign diplomats actually do for their countries? Some would say that they spy and collect intelligence.  If that is the case, where were they when Russia was meddling in the US elections of 2016? One can argue that they give feedback to their governments based upon the ground realities and that eventually helps the governments to alter their foreign policies. We never saw any proof of that when Iran invaded the US embassy and held the diplomats as hostages. The bitter realty is that most of these ambassadorial and high level foreign posts are patronized and it would be very hard for these puppets to recommend anything against the wishes of their masters. The other job left for these diplomats is to issue the visas for those locals who want to visit or migrate to their countries. In reality, this is the bulk of the responsibilities that lie on their shoulders. How well do they perform their duties in this regard? Let us first take the examples of the developed countries like the USA. The US embassies receive thousands of applications everyday from the locals who seek the tourist, student or migrant visas.  Here the classic case of human psychology comes into play. Give power to a little person and that person can really show how little he or she is. Most of these officers who interview the applicants are nothing but clerks with enormous powers. Sometime they interview the highly qualified people and for no obvious reasons reject their applications and then they are impressed with the mediocre or unwanted candidates and issue them the visas. That is the big flaw in this process. I can give a personal account in this case. My sister and her husband wanted to attend the wedding of my niece last May in Chicago. They applied for the visiting visas in April, 2017 and the US consulate in Karachi held their passports and told them that they would get visas after the clearance from Washington. Sadly, their passports are still being held by the consulate as of Nov 2017 and during this time my sister has died. The question rises here that she was a sister of three US citizens and once lived in the USA as an immigrant and what else the officer needed to verify her background. This is the pathetic situation of the embassies of the advanced countries like USA.

What goes on in the embassies and the consulates of the developing and poor countries is even more devastating and alarming. The most bureaucrats of these courtiers are often corrupt, egoistic and sadistic. Once again, from a personal experience, I give examples of India and Pakistan. The people of both countries have important links with each other on the basis of blood and religious ties since India was partitioned into two countries. Without going into the cruel and inhuman attitude of both countries not to allow their citizens to visit their relatives or perform religious rituals, I give my personal account on this matter. The US citizens get Indian tourist visas easily unless they happen to be the US citizens of Pakistani origin and in my case it applies. I have visited my relatives in India many times in the past but it was always a hassle and I had to get around with their system. Most of the times, they held my passport and delayed issuing me the visa citing the reason that they were waiting approval from New Delhi. It was just a lie and when I caught them off guard and exposed them, they issued me the visas on the spot. Now, I have decided not to go to India at all since there are many other beautiful places where I can spend my money. These bureaucrats do not realize that they hurt their country by restricting tourism. They should learn some lessons from the countries like Thailand, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Malaysia and even China for making it easy for the foreigners to visit their countries. With all fairness, I am sure Pakistan behaves in the same manner as India does.

In this age of cyber activity, is it really necessary to spend such staggering amounts of taxpayers’ money to keep these foreign missions alive?  The world news travels so fast these days that the whole world knows before the ambassadors wake up and learn what happened in their countries of residence. There should be a global movement by the people to reform their countries foreign services. Most of these positions are irrelevant in this age of social media and the internet. They need to be eliminated, trimmed or at least properly audited.