Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh’s tenure was “curtailed” on Wednesday night — six months early — and India’s ambassador to the US, S Jaishankar, was appointed as the new Foreign Secretary.
“The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet has approved the following: Curtailment of tenure of Ms Sujatha Singh, IFS 1976, as Foreign Secretary with immediate effect… Appointment of Dr S Jaishankar, IFS 77, as Foreign Secretary with a tenure of two years, from the date of assumption of charge or until further orders,” said an order issued by the Department of Personnel and Training.
Jaishankar, who was earlier India’s ambassador to China, is credited with the turnaround in New Delhi’s relationship with Washington in the last one year. He went to the US at a time when the Devyani Khobragade affair had impacted ties in December 2013.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the helm, he successfully turned around the relationship — first by organising Modi’s US visit in September last year, and then implementing his idea of getting US President Barack Obama as the chief guest for the Republic Day celebrations.
He was due to retire on January 31, and the political leadership waited for Obama’s visit to end successfully before announcing his appointment. Jaishankar, who has a PhD in international relations and is the son of strategic affairs doyen K Subrahmanyam, is one of the early negotiators of the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal.
Jaishankar is said to have gained the trust of the new political establishment due to his diplomatic skills and knowledge on the challenges confronting Indo-US relations in particular, and the world at large. While his proficiency in Russian language makes him one of the most knowledgeable diplomats on Russian and Central Asian affairs, his network with the Chinese establishment was evident when he was able to bring the Depsang incursion crisis to an end in April 2013.
While there is no word yet on Singh’s future, sources said she may resign from service. There is also some speculation that she may go to Paris as the Indian envoy, till her retirement in July. The Indian envoy to France, Arun Singh, may be headed for the US.
Sujatha Singh was appointed as the Foreign Secretary by the UPA government in August 2013. She is the daughter of former IB chief and ex-UP Governor T V Rajeshwar.
Soon after the BJP government came to power, it became clear that she had fallen out of favour. Officials recalled instances when Modi would keep her out of the loop on important foreign policy decisions, including the cancellation of the FS-level talks with Pakistan and Obama’s visit.
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