Govt in bind over selecting envoy for China talks

Govt in bind over selecting envoy for China talks

 The Centre is in a bind over the appointment of India’s new special representative for boundary negotiation with China as it has to take a call on according the Minister of State (MoS) status to the person chosen for the job and place him above National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval.

Though former foreign secretary Shyam Saran has been considered, the Prime Minister’s Office is said to be of the view that it will not be appropriate to appoint him as the special representative (SR) unless he is given the MoS status. But giving MoS rank to Saran would be tantamount to putting him above Doval, who —unlike all his predecessors—has not been accorded that status yet.

The predicament prompted a rethink on the proposal of appointing the 1970-batch Indian Foreign Service officer, sources told Deccan Herald.

Saran retired as foreign secretary in September 2006. He was about to be given the MoS status in early 2010, when he was serving as the then prime minister Manmohan Singh’s special envoy for climate change negotiations. To bring him on a par with the then NSA Shiv Shankar Menon, Singh cleared the proposal of giving the MoS status to Saran. It, however, could not be implemented as Saran suddenly quit in March 2010, purportedly in the wake of differences with the then environment minister Jairam Ramesh.

Though all previous NSAs—Brajesh Mishra, J N Dixit, M K Narayanan and Shiv Shankar Menon—were designated special representatives for boundary talks with China, Doval was not Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first choice for the job. He was instead keen to assign the task to a senior retired diplomat having experiences in dealing with New Delhi’s complex relation with Beijing.

Saran was considered for the job in view of the expertise he has acquired in his long career—not only when he was posted in the Indian Embassy in Beijing but also when he headed the East Asia Division at the Ministry of External Affairs, and finally as the foreign secretary.

According to sources, Modi may designate Doval as the special representative in case he decides against appointing Saran or his office fails to find any other suitable candidate with expertise on the communist country.