Thursday, July 23, 2009

Secretary Clinton’s Mumbai Meet and Greet

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on stage with Timothy J. Roemer, U.S. Ambassador-Designate to India (R), and Consul General Paul Folmsbee (L) during the address to Mumbai Consulate staff at the Taj Palace Hotel in Mumbai, India July 19, 2009. [State Department photo]

It’s good to see the Secretary of State as both troop leader and cheerleader-in-chief during her stop at the Consulate General in Mumbai. At the end of every tasker is a desk with a human being, but not everyone in the State leadership ladder has always remembered that. Given the Mumbai ordeal a few months ago, and the exploding consular workload there (typical wait time for visa interviews range from 3-17 days within US Mission India), I find it refreshing that she made an effort to do this meet and greet and recognize publicly the Foreign Service employees work in hard numbers:

“Last year you processed more than half-a-million visa interviews, and 18,000 legal permanent resident interviews, with total work hours close to 60,000. There has been a 200 percent increase in total staffing here in the past 10 years…With over 300 employees, you have outgrown the former Maharaja's Palace that has been the home for you for many years. And I am pleased that by 2010 you will be able to move into the new consulate complex. You are replacing history with modernity and new technology and a lot of the other needs that you have been telling us are required.”

The new US Ambassador to India, Timothy Roemer was confirmed on time to accompany the Secretary on this trip. See Ambassador Roemer’s brief talk and the Secretary’s meet and greet talk to Consulate employees here. I understand that the new Consulate General building in Mumbai that opens next year will feature 46 service windows, a significant increase from post’s current 17 windows. India has also been designated since 2006 as a single, countrywide consular district, which allows the India posts to shift officers and/or workload to best match resources with demand. Under their appointment system, the Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs in New Delhi designates which applicants may apply at another post with a shorter wait time. All good news, but there’s more… Still on India -- I am hearing that Don Jacobson, until recently Counselor for Consular Affairs at the US Embassy Riyadh is heading to New Delhi as the new Consul General there. Don Jacobson, is a career FSO who runs the website and has added an accompanying blog to his site earlier this year. James Herman who was previously Deputy Director of CA/CST is also reportedly heading to New Delhi as the Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs (MCCA). I understand that you're considered lucky if heading to a consular tour in India with these two guys running the shop.

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