External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj Thursday said she had personally communicated to Sujatha Singh the government’s decision to appoint S Jaishankar as the Foreign Secretary in her place. Jaishankar took charge Friday.
Swaraj’s remark came in the backdrop of reports that she was not in the loop over the government’s decision to abruptly “curtail” Singh’s tenure around seven months before it was to end. Also, the minister’s tweet came on a day when Singh claimed she was not sacked and she had actually sought an early retirement.
“I told her that the government wanted to appoint Dr Jaishankar as Foreign Secretary,” Swaraj tweeted. “Then I spoke to Sujatha Singh personally,” she said in another tweet.
Defending the Centre’s decision, Swaraj noted, “Since Dr Jaishankar was retiring on January 31st, we had to issue orders of his appointment before that date.”
Jaishankar, who was ambassador to the US, was appointed on Wednesday as the new Foreign Secretary in a surprise decision by the Union Cabinet’s Appointment Committee, which is headed by the Prime Minister. Opposition parties have targeted the NDA government over the sudden move and sought to know the reasons for Singh’s “sacking”.
Singh, however, maintained that she had actually sought to retire early after 38 years in service.
Singh, who sent a farewell email to her colleagues in foreign service after her two-year tenure as Foreign secretary, made reference to the abrupt end to her service. In her e-mail dated January 28, Singh said: “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… While individuals can and do play a critical role in building institutions, I believe that no individual is larger than the institution. It can never be about individuals. It has to be about institutions and how institutions interface and coordinate with each other.”
Meanwhile, 1977-batch IFS officer Jaishankar, after taking charge as Foreign Secretary on Friday, said: “My priorities are the government’s priorities. So, I think at this time let’s leave it at that…. This is a big responsibility. I would say that I am very honoured that I have been assigned this responsibility.” He was replying to the questions about his sudden appointment. Singh was not present when He took charge at the South Block office. Jaishankar will have a two-year tenure as per rules.