Jaishankar is new foreign secretary

Jaishankar is new foreign secretary

Jaishankar is new foreign secretary

The Centre on Wednesday appointed India’s envoy to the US, S Jaishankar, as the new foreign secretary, shunting out incumbent Sujatha Singh from the office at least eight months before the end of her term.

A meeting of the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi late on Wednesday decided to replace Singh with Jaishankar.

Jaishankar was set to retire from the Indian Foreign Service by the end of this month. His appointment as foreign secretary, however, ensured that he would have the opportunity to steer New Delhi’s diplomacy till early 2017.

Singh was appointed by the erstwhile Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government and she assumed office in August 1, 2013, for a two-year term, which would have come to its end on July 31. The decision of putting Jaishankar at the helm of the Ministry of External Affairs came just a day after US President Barack Obama left New Delhi after a three-day visit.

Jaishankar, who was appointed as India’s Ambassador to America in September 2013, played a key role in ensuring the success of US President’s visit to New Delhi and his meeting with the prime minister.

Though Jaishankar can continue as foreign secretary even after his superannuation till the end of his two-year term, the government rules required that his appointment be finalised before his retirement.

Jaishankar, who joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1977, has been New Delhi’s envoy to Beijing from August 2009 till September 2013.

Speculation about Jaishankar, who is believed to be close to the then prime minister Manmohan Singh, being appointed as foreign secretary superseding front-runner Singh and other senior diplomats had created a flutter in the Ministry of External Affairs in 2013.

Several diplomats senior to him purportedly threatened to resign to protest the move that was apparently initiated by the Prime Minister’s Office.