Sujatha Singh seeks early retirement

Sujatha Singh seeks early retirement

Sujatha Singh, who was shunted out from the foreign secretary’s office, claimed that she had asked for “early retirement” from government service.

“While individuals can and do play a critical role in building institutions, I believe that no individual is larger than the institution,” Singh, who was replaced by S Jaishankar as the foreign secretary, wrote in a letter to the officers and other staff of the Ministry of External Affairs. The senior diplomat also wrote in the same letter that she had sought early retirement from government service.

External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj, however, posted on Twitter that she had briefed her about the government decision to remove her from the top office of the MEA.

“Since Jaishankar was retiring on January 31, we had to issue orders of his appointment before that date,” Swaraj posted on Twitter on Thursday. “Then I spoke to Sujatha Singh personally. I told her that the government wanted to appoint Jaishankar as foreign secretary,” tweeted the External Affairs Minister.

The letter is dated “January 28, 2015”, although it is not clear whether she wrote it before or after the government on Wednesday decided to curtail her two-year term in the office of the Foreign Secretary by eight months and replace her with Jaishankar, who was India’s envoy to the US.    

“It can never be about individuals. It has to be about institutions and how institutions interface and coordinate with each other,” said Singh, who took over as foreign secretary in August 2013 after the then erstwhile  United Progressive Alliance Government appointed her to the top office of the Ministry of External Affairs.

As her 38-year-long diplomatic career ended in an unceremonious exit from the foreign secretary’s office, Singh wrote: “I believe that the foreign secretary, as head of this service and the senior-most civil servant in the ministry, plays a critical role in being the main point of interface with the political leadership, in giving objective advice that takes into account India's foreign policy interests over all connected and interlinked aspects.”

Singh served as India’s high commissioner to Australia and ambassador to Germany before being appointed as fhe foreign secretary in 2013 – succeeding Ranjan Mathai on the completion of his two-year term. A meeting of the Appointment Committee of the Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, however, decided to curtail her term by about eight months.

Modi’s predecessor Manmohan Singh was understood to be keen to appoint Jaishankar, a 1977 batch officer of the Indian Foreign Service, as the foreign secretary in 2013. But Singh, who joined the IFS in 1976, and a few other serving MEA officials, who were senior to Jaishankar, threatened to resign in protest. 

Congress president Sonia Gandhi and other prominent leaders of the party, however, prevailed over the Prime Minister’s Office and advised it to go by the seniority.

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