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Foreign office closer to Sonia home
- Rs 173-cr building in heart of city

After years of debate, the foreign ministry has finally decided to shift its headquarters closer to 10 Janpath, the official residence of Sonia Gandhi.

The decision to move the ministry of external affairs headquarters, from South Block to a proposed building to be called Jawaharlal Nehru Bhawan, was taken this afternoon at a meeting of the cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The new building, to be built at an estimated cost of Rs 173 crore, will be in the heart of the capital at the crossing of Maulana Azad Road and Janpath, less than a kilometre from where the Congress president and UPA chairperson lives.

Information and broadcasting minister S. Jaipal Reddy, who briefed the media about the cabinet decision, said the proposed building will bring together the various branches of the MEA and help in better coordination and smoother functioning.

The foreign minister, his junior ministers, the foreign secretary and a host of other important secretaries and divisional heads have their offices in South Block.

Over the years, as the ministry grew, it started looking for other buildings to house its various divisions and wings. However, the MEA has been facing pressure from the defence ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office, which also share space in South Block.

As a result, the MEA was forced to give up many of its rooms to meet the growing needs of the defence ministry in the past few years.

Many of its divisions, like that of joint secretary, external publicity and foreign ministry spokesman, have their offices in Shastri Bhawan, while the consular-passport-visa (CPV) division functions out of the Patiala Court building.

Similarly, the dean of the Foreign Service Institute, the policy planning division and the joint secretary establishment have their office in Akbar Bhawan ' nearly 5 km from South Block.

Reddy also highlighted these points while briefing the media. He said the MEA had been facing “functional difficulties” since many of its officers and some of its key divisions are scattered in different parts of the capital. He also pointed out that the need to have a new building for the ministry also had to do with the growing image of India as a major world power.

Since the MEA is frequently visited by foreign dignitaries and diplomats from all over the world, it is important to have it in a building that projects “a suitable image” of India to the outside world, Reddy said.

As the plot is in the middle of Lutyen’s Delhi, the building will have to match the “grandeur and style” of those, like the National Museum and the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, located in the vicinity.

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