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Thursday, January 29, 2015, Magh 16, 1421, Robi-Us-Sani 7, 1436 Hijr


S Jaishankar new Indian FS as Sujatha sacked
Observer Online Desk
Published : Thursday, 29 January, 2015,  Time : 10:42 AM,  View Count : 64
Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Thursday took charge as the new foreign secretary as Modi government sacked Sujatha Singh.

A day after Barack Obama flew out of India, the Modi government on late Wednesday evening announced the abrupt "curtailment of tenure of foreign secretary Sujatha Singh with immediate effect" - a not very polite way of saying it was sacking her eight months before she was due to retire.

Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India's ambassador to the US, who's a batch junior to Singh in the service, is the new foreign secretary.

Singh is the first foreign secretary to be removed unceremoniously after Rajiv Gandhi removed AP Venkateswaran 28 years ago in 1987.

From all accounts, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been unimpressed with Singh and her work, and had made no secret of it in the past months. There had been talk of a change for some time, but foreign minister Sushma Swaraj is said to have wanted Singh to stay on.

The decision was finally taken to remove her after the Obama visit. Jaishankar was earlier needed in Washington to lay the groundwork for what Modi wanted to be two back-to-back headline-grabbing summits.

Jaishankar's appointment promises sweeping changes to the ministry of external affairs. In the past six months, no ambassadorial appointments have been cleared by the government. The MEA had sent in recommendations but they were not cleared by the PMO, partly because the PM wanted to make the changes at the helm first.

A slew of ambassadorial and joint secretary changes are waiting to be made which are now likely to go through. Among the first decisions will be to appoint a successor to Jaishankar in Washington DC.

Jaishankar will start work on Thursday, and in the first week of February will preside over the first heads of mission meeting called during the NDA government. He is expected to get a freer hand in MEA because the PM believes he can take out-of-the-box decisions.

A copy of the government letter ordering the removal of Sujatha Singh as foreign secretary and appointing S Jaishankar in her place.

Jaishankar was frontrunner to become foreign secretary in 2013, and was a personal choice of former PM Manmohan Singh. However, Manmohan could not have his way as Sonia Gandhi had the last word with Sujatha Singh's appointment.

Singh's father was former IB chief TV Rajeshwar, an old Congress party loyalist.

An officer of the 1977 batch of the Indian Foreign Service, Jaishankar is the son of strategic guru K Subrahmanyan, a former consulting editor with The Times of India. He was ambassador to China and before that ambassador to Singapore and the Czech Republic.

TOI/LY






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