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PMO relents, Sujata Singh to be next Foreign Secretary

Last Updated: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 09:16

Zee Media Bureau

New Delhi: Speculations over who will be the country’s next Foreign Secretary finally comes to an end with Prime Minister Office’s giving its nod for the appointment of India`s Ambassador to Germany, Sujata Singh for the top job.

Singh is the senior most officer in the Indian Foreign Service and will succeed incumbent Rajan Mathai who superannuates on July 31.

Though India`s envoy to China S Jaishankar, was believed to be Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s choice for foreign secretary, the Congress Party was not keen to overlook seniority.

Earlier, a reported move to supercede Sujata Singh and other senior diplomats created a flutter within the Ministry of External Affairs. Not only Singh, but other officers of her batch had reportedly indicated their unwillingness to work under Jaishankar, a 1977-batch officer.

Ms Singh`s husband Sanjay Singh was also in the foreign service and retired recently as Secretary (East).

The top diplomat is the daughter of TV Rajeshwar, a former governor and Intelligence Bureau chief. Congress president Sonia Gandhi had recently attended the 60th wedding anniversary of Rajeshwar, in what many said was an implicit nod to her appointment.

The other contenders for the coveted job were S Jaishankar, India`s ambassador to China, Jaimini Bhagwati, Indian High Commissioner to Britain, Sudhir Vyas, Secretary (West) and Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty, Secretary (Economic Relations) in the Ministry of External Affairs.

Singh`s appointment will put an end to speculation that Mr Jaishankar, who is junior to her, as well as to Vyas and Mr Chakravarty, will get the top job.

The government had to face discontent earlier when it chose Shivshankar Menon as foreign secretary in October 2006 over the heads of 15 IFS officers. It had triggered a minor revolt with then Secretary (East) Rajiv Sikri submitting his resignation and two envoys - TCA Rangachari, ambassador to France, and Veena Sikri, the wife of Rajiv Sikri and then High Commissioner to Bangladesh - putting in their papers as well. Mr Rangachari was next in seniority to then outgoing Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran.

After Mr Menon retired as foreign secretary in July 2009, the government chose the next two foreign secretaries, Nirupama Rao and then Ranjan Mathai, on the basis of seniority.

There were fears that if the government had gone in for Mr Jaishankar, it would have triggered a 2006-like situation, leading to senior diplomats - much-feted for their work - putting in their papers, a situation the government would like to avoid in a politically-surcharged year leading up to the general elections.

The tenure of a foreign secretary is two years.

First Published: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 09:14

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