NEW DELHI: Nirupama Rao, India's ambassador to China and who has served as first woman spokesperson of the foreign ministry, will succeed Shivshankar Menon as India's next foreign secretary Aug 1, it was announced here Tuesday.
Announcing Rao's appointment, the government Tuesday said Rao will take over after Menon's retires July 31 after nearly three years of service.
When contacted in Beijing, Rao, who has been inundated with congratulatory calls since morning, said she was happy but declined further comment.
Rao will be India's second woman foreign secretary after Chokila Iyer, who served briefly in the post in 2001.
A topper of the 1973 IFS batch, Rao became the first woman spokesperson of the external affairs ministry in 2001. Eight years later, after stints as ambassador in Peru, Sri Lanka and China and deputy chief of mission in Moscow, Rao returns to New Delhi at the head of India's Foreign Service.
The 58-year-old Rao, who is also a part-time poet and hobby singer, has represented India in important capitals. She went to Colombo as India's ambassador in 2002. Rao took over from Nalin Surie, currently secretary (west) in the external affairs ministry, as New Delhi's envoy in Beijing in 2006.
She has specialised in Asia-Pacific security and served as a Fellow at the Centre for International Affairs (now called the Weatherhead Center) at Harvard University. She was minister in the Indian embassy in Washington from 1993 to 1995 in charge of press affairs. In 1999-2000, she was Distinguished International Executive in Residence at the University of Maryland at College Park.
Rao is married to Sudhakar Rao, an IAS officer who is currently chief secretary, Karnataka state.