Cong favours seniority order in choice of foreign secy secretary

Cong favours seniority order in choice of foreign secy secretary

Sujata Singh, India’s ambassador to Germany, may find herself ahead of others in the race to the Foreign Secretary’s office, as the Congress is in favour of going by the seniority order of the Indian Foreign Service officers to appoint the top diplomat of the country.

Though S Jaishankar, New Delhi’s envoy to Beijing, is believed to be Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s choice, top brass of the ruling party is not keen to endorse a move to overlook the IFS officers’ seniority order to appoint the successor of Ranjan Mathai for the Foreign Secretary’s office.

Mathai, a 1974 batch IFS officer, is set to retire on July 31 next. The Government is likely to appoint his successor within a few days. Though Sujata Singh, the senior-most in the 1976 batch, is next in line and a frontrunner to be the next Foreign Secretary, the Prime Minister himself has been strongly favouring Jaishankar.

Jaishankar belongs to the 1977 batch of the IFS. He headed the Americas Division of the Ministry of External Affairs between 2004 and 2007 and actively took part in India’s engagements with the US for the civil nuclear cooperation agreement.  He is the son of late K Subrahmanyam, the well-known strategic affairs analyst.

The move to appoint Jaishankar as the Foreign Secretary superseding Sujata Singh and other senior diplomats created a flutter within the MEA. Not only Singh, but also other officials of her batch – India’s envoy to UK Jamini Bhagwati, Secretary (Public Diplomacy) Pinak Ranjan Chakravarthy and Secretary (West) Sudhir Vyas – are understood to be unwilling to work under Jaishankar, who is junior to them.

Some senior Congress leaders are understood to have of late advised the prime minister to go by the seniority order to appoint the next Foreign Secretary.

Sujata Singh is the daughter of former Intelligence Bureau chief T V Rajeshwar, who is known to be close to the top brass of the Congress and was appointed as Governor of Uttar Pradesh just a few months after the United Progressive Alliance came to power in 2004. He was in the Rajbhavan in Lucknow till 2009. Appointment of Shiv Shankar Menon, currently National Security Advisor, as Foreign Secretary superseding several officers senior to him had also triggered a revolt within the MEA in 2006.