India-China ties to remain priority for new foreign secy

Last Updated 29 January 2018, 18:19 IST

Vijay Keshav Gokhale was involved with the management of India's relations with China for the best part of his diplomatic career.

And, as he took over as the new foreign secretary on Monday, bringing New Delhi's troubled ties with Beijing back on track will continue to be one of his priorities.

India's relations with the United States and Japan and its other neighbouring countries would also remain the key focus areas of the Ministry of External Affairs, now led by Gokhale.

Gokhale, an Indian Foreign Service officer of 1981 batch, succeeded S Jaishankar, who completed his three-year tenure on Sunday.

The new foreign secretary went to his office in South Block early in the morning on Monday. "An early morning start!..." tweeted the spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Raveesh Kumar. He also tweeted a picture of Gokhale at the office of the foreign secretary.

Gokhale's early diplomatic assignments include postings in Hong Kong, Hanoi, Beijing and New York. He also served as deputy secretary (finance) and director (China and East Asia) during his stints at the headquarters of the Ministry of External Affairs. He also headed the East Asia division, which oversees India-China relations, as joint secretary. He was the high commissioner of India to Malaysia from January 2010 to October 2013, ambassador of India to the Federal Republic of Germany from October 2013 to January 2016, and ambassador of India to China from January 2016 to October 2017. He has been serving as the secretary (economic relations) since October 2017.

The government announced Gokhale's appointment as Jaishankar's successor earlier this month.

Doklam face-off

Even as Gokhale assumed his new office early on Monday, the 2017 military face-off between India and China at Doklam Plateau in western Bhutan continued to haunt the relations between the two neighbours. The media reports about Chinese People's Liberation Army building new military infrastructure near the scene of the face-off in Doklam Plateau caused unease in New Delhi.

Gokhale, who played a key role in resolving the face-off at Doklam Plateau, is likely to lead New Delhi's efforts to mend its ties with Beijing, without lowering the guard against any misadventure by the communist country. The prime minister himself may attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation's summit which Chinese President Xi Jinping will host in Qingdao on the east coast of China in June. The diplomats of India and China are in touch to schedule the engagements between the two leaders this year.

(Published 29 January 2018, 18:12 IST)

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