×
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
New government will have a new look ministry of external affairs

New government will have a new look ministry of external affairs

Even if S Jaishankar returns as Minister for External Affairs in the new government, the MEA will have a fresh crop of ministers of state.

Follow Us :

Last Updated : 07 June 2024, 06:10 IST
Last Updated : 07 June 2024, 06:10 IST
Comments

Notwithstanding all the surmises about the incoming Union government, one thing is certain — the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) will have a new look. For sure, none of its three ministers of state will be in the next Council of Ministers. Meenakshi Lekhi and Rajkumar Ranjan Singh were denied tickets for re-election to the Lok Sabha by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Rajya Sabha term of the third minister, V Muraleedharan, ended in April, and the BJP asked him to contest the Lok Sabha poll from Kerala’s Attingal, where he lost to Congress’ Adoor Prakash. Even if S Jaishankar returns as Minister for External Affairs in the new government, the MEA will have a fresh crop of ministers of state.  

The Foreign Secretary, Vinay Kwatra, is on a stop-gap extension because his tenure would have ended bang in the middle of the Lok Sabha elections and the Model Code of Conduct prevented such appointments once the poll process was notified. There were other factors too. Kwatra enjoys the personal trust of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who plucked him out of Kathmandu after only two years there as Ambassador and made him foreign secretary. So, an important post-retirement diplomatic or national security job for Kwatra cannot be ruled out.

Towards the end of last year, Jaishankar initiated the process of an overlap of MEA secretaries in anticipation of Kwatra’s retirement, and the possibility of new ministers since the general election was approaching. Three of the four secretaries in South Block, the seat of the MEA, are therefore new. They were inducted in a phased manner to cause minimum disruptions.

Together, Pavan Kapoor, Jaideep Mazumdar, and Muktesh Pardeshi have brought to the diplomatic high table expertise on Russia, China, West Asia, consular work, diaspora engagement, and multilateral involvement. The fourth secretary has an unusual career profile because he has been at headquarters for eight long years. Therefore, he may go abroad on an important posting to complete his remaining 14 months in the Indian Foreign Service (IFS). Dammu Ravi is an expert on economic diplomacy, and had the additional charge of the entire MEA part of the management of the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, including relief measures.  

The new government will have the urgent task of finalising several important diplomatic assignments. The critical posts of ambassador to the United States and permanent representative to the United Nations in New York are lying vacant. Paris, another station of paramount importance for India’s defence, space programmes, and the country’s global strategies, will need a new ambassador, whose appointment will have to be initiated forthwith so that the head of mission can be in position by September. Jawed Ashraf, the incumbent, is already on an extension, and will leave for home in four months unless the veteran’s term is extended again.

Berlin, Brasilia, Port Louis, Tel Aviv, and Cairo will all need new ambassadors without delay. All this means the hotspots for Indian diplomacy will have new faces in terms of key personnel, although they will be drawn from the IFS. Modi is the only Prime Minister who has not made any political appointments to India’s overseas missions. 

It is expected that there will be continuity in the work of all the Indian missions in the country’s immediate neighbourhood. Except in Male, where the high commissioner’s term is ending in November, no changes are expected in any neighbouring country. The new government will have to decide what to do with Pakistan, and whether to continue the recent outreach to Afghanistan.

In terms of protocol, inter-agency teams of the government are putting in place arrangements for the first foreign of visit of Modi’s new term. It will be to Italy for the Group of Seven (G7) Summit of the world’s richest countries to be held in Apulia from June 13 to 15. His next visit will be to Astana in Kazakhstan for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit on July 3 and 4.

There is a resurgent thought in South Block that President Droupadi Murmu and Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar should be drafted to make more foreign visits. Pranab Mukherjee and Hamid Ansari fulfilled roles abroad that went beyond the mere ceremonial duties of president and vice president. This practice tapered off during the tenures of their successors. The idea is to take a leaf out of China’s diplomatic book. Beijing uses its premier and vice president in addition to President Xi Jinping for its global foreign policy blitzkrieg.

(K P Nayar has extensively covered West Asia and reported from Washington as a foreign correspondent for 15 years.)


Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author's own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.

ADVERTISEMENT

Follow us on :

Follow Us

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT