Can foreigners hold airline security posts?


MUMBAI: It is a policy decision of sorts that the country will be taking: Can foreigners be appointed to top security posts in India’s airlines?

Jet Airways recently appointed Steve Ramiah, a Singapore national as its vice-president (security), and now it appears that the airline may be compelled to replace him with an Indian.

In a high-level security meet called by the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) last week- attended by representatives from the IB, RAW, home ministry, civil aviation ministry and airlines- it was unanimously decided that foreigners should not be allowed to hold top security posts in airlines. “It was a unanimous ‘No’ from all who attended the meeting, except of course, the Jet Airways representative. But the final government order to the effect is not known yet and will be issued in a day or two,” said a source.

“The common consensus in last week’s meeting was that the top security official of an airline like the vice-president (security) for instance should be an Indian as he/she would be privy to a lot of classified information ,” the source said. “A vicepresident (security) would be the airline concerned’s representative in all meetings called by the home ministry , BCAS etc. So the person would be privy to information related to say, terrorism, security issues between India and other countries, intelligence tip-offs etc,” he said. “Jet Airways may appoint Ramiah as a consultant on security matters. No one had objections to that as a consultant has limited powers,” he said.

Though foreign nationals hold a number of top posts in airlines in India, it is the first time that a foreigner was chosen to head security. Globally, each country has its own rule on this issue, with some airlines in the Middle East having foreigners in prime security posts, while other airlines, like those in the US and UK reserve the post only for its citizens. When TOI had sought comments from Jet Airways a month ago on this issue, an airline spokesperson had said: “Jet Airways has not violated any government regulations in appointing Steve Ramiah as the new vice-president (security).”

According to the airline, Ramiah is of “Indian origin by birth and was officially accorded a Person of Indian Origin status by the Indian High Commission in Singapore in December 2006.” The airline chose not to comment on last week’s development though. “We have no information ,” said an airline spokesperson on Monday.

It is true that Ramiah’s appointment does not directly violate any regulations for the simple reason that India has not yet chalked out any regulations concerning nationality of personnel holding security posts in its airlines within the country. But it is clear when it comes to security postings in airline’s stations abroad. “The R P Singh Committee in its recommendations made in year 2002-these recommendations were later accepted for implementation by the BCAS-say that airlines cannot appoint foreigners to security posts in its offices based abroad,” says an aviation source. “It’s logical then that they cannot appoint foreigners for security posts in India. However, the Singh Committee has not said it in writing,” he adds. The government will now come clear on the issue in a day or two.