M A I N   N E W S

Seniority prevails, Sujatha Singh is new Foreign Secy
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi, July 2
Adhering to the seniority principle, the government today named Indian Ambassador to Germany Sujatha Singh as the next Foreign Secretary to succeed Ranjan Mathai on his retirement on July 31.

An IFS officer of the 1976 batch, Sujatha will be the third woman to navigate India’s foreign policy as the country’s top diplomat. Earlier, Chokila Iyer and Nirupama Rao have held the coveted post.

Sujatha, who was due to retire in July next year, will now have a two-year term from August 1. Though she has not done any diplomatic posting in India’s neighbourhood, clearly an added qualification for any Foreign Secretary, she was Undersecretary in the External Affairs Ministry looking after Nepal in early 80s.

Apart from Sujatha, there were four contenders for the Foreign Secretary’s post. They were S Jaishankar, India’s Ambassador to China, Jaimini Bhagwati, Indian High Commissioner to Britain, Sudhir Vyas, Secretary (West) in the External Affairs Ministry, and Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty, Secretary (Economic Relations) in the ministry.

There were suggestions that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was favourably disposed towards Jaishankar, keeping in view the fact that he has excelled in whatever assignment was given to him. The role played by Jaishankar, the son of late strategic policy analyst K Subrahmanyam, in defusing the crisis arising from the recent border tension with China had come in for appreciation even from his detractors.

However, the speculation about Jaishankar’s elevation had already sparked a mini-revolt in the Foreign Office, with those senior to him reportedly threatening to resign en-masse if their respective claims were ignored.

To avoid any controversy, the government decided to go by the senior formula in naming Sujatha to the post. Her husband Sanjay Singh was also an IFS officer and retired recently as Secretary (East) in the ministry. She is the daughter of TV Rajeshwar, a former Governor and Intelligence Bureau chief, who is said to be close to the Nehru-Gandhi family.

Sujatha is known in diplomatic circles as an efficient diplomat, capable of handling any difficult situation. Early in 2010 when Australia was rocked by racial attacks on Indians, it was Sujatha who had to do some tough talking with the Australian authorities to prevail on them to firmly deal with the situation or risk deterioration in ties with India. Her no-nonsense approach took even the arrogant Australian officials by surprise as they launched measures on a war-footing to contain violence against the Indians.

Born in 1954, Sujata did BA Honours in Economics in 1973 from the Lady Shri Ram College, New Delhi. She did her MA in Economics in 1975 from the Delhi School of Economics and joined the IFS in 1976. Prior to her appointment as the Ambassador to Germany in March 2012, she was the High Commissioner to Australia from 2007. She has also worked in various capacities in the MEA and Indian missions abroad.

Tough task ahead

  • Sujatha Singh will assume charge at a time when India’s relations with its neighbours are far from normal
  • She will have to work with her Pakistani counterpart to put the dialogue process back on the track
  • The unfolding scenario in Afghanistan, particularly after the pull out by NATO troops, will be a big challenge for Singh
  • The complex relationship with China will also test her diplomatic skills





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