Nirupama to be next Foreign Secretary

Nirupama RaoThe government on Tuesday formally announced Rao’s appointment to the post of country’s top diplomat. Deccan Herald had on June 9 last reported that the 1973 batch Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer could be the next Foreign Secretary.

Rao had called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on June 8 last giving an indication that she might be the next Foreign Secretary.

She is going to be the second woman to be appointed to the post of the country’s top diplomat after Chokila Iyer (of 1964 IFS batch), who was placed in the foreign secretary’s office in 2006.

Born in Kerala on December 6, 1950. Rao studied in Bangalore, Pune, Lucknow and Coonoor. 

Nirupama obtained a Master’s degree in English literature from Marathwada University in 1972 and joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1973.

As a diplomat, she has served in Indian missions in various world capitals, including Washington and Moscow. She served in the East Asia division of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi between 1984 and 1992, including as Joint Secretary (East Asia). 

She was a minister in the Indian Embassy in Washington from 1993 to 1995 and looked after press affairs.  She was India’s ambassador of India to Peru from 1995 to 1998.

From 1998-1999, she was Deputy Chief of Mission at the Indian Embassy in Moscow.

Rao was appointed MEA spokesperson in 2001. She was the first woman to be appointed to the post. She was the Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka from 2004-06.
Since late October 2006, Rao has been serving as the Ambassador of India in China.

A fellow of the Centre for International Affairs (now Weatherhead Centre) of Harvard University from 1992 to 1993, Rao loves Hindustani, Carnatic and Western music. She is also an accomplished singer in her own right. Her first book of poems Rain Rising was published in 2004.

Sources said that Nalin Suri, currently Secretary (west) in the MEA, and Hardeep Puri, India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, were also contenders for the post.

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