After a rathere long search, the position of the second-in-command at India’s Embassy in Washington may finally get an incumbent. But the choice has led to some heartburn within the Indian Foreign Service, as it means that a diplomat couple will be posted to the US together for an unprecedented third time.
The Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) at the Washington Embassy is a crucial post due to the close bilateral ties with the US. In the last six months, there have been over 40 bilateral visits at various levels, perhaps more than any with any other country.
Since last year, the Indian Ambassador to the US, Nirupama Rao had been searching to get a replacement for her deputy, Arun Kumar Singh.
The 1979 batch IFS officer had remained in Washington for an unusually long tenure of over four years from October 2008, before finally moving to be the Indian Ambassador to Paris in April - even though the Union Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) still couldn’t find his successor.
Rao had proposed 1988 IFS officer Taranjit Singh Sandhu, Consul General in Frankfurt, even last year, but it was not received positively in the South Block. There had been other takers for the post, but they were not endorsed by Rao.
The reluctance to post Sandhu stemmed from the fact that his posting would also mean that his wife, 1989 IFS officer Reenat Sandhu, too had to be also accommodated in the embassy.
But, now it’s learnt that Sandhu, a product of Lawrence School Sanawar and St Stephen’s College, has been cleared to become the Deputy Chief of Mission, with his wife Reenat slated to work as Minister (commercial).
Not surprisingly, there has been murmurs and disquiet in the MEA, as it means that a diplomatic couple will be going back to the US for the third time.
In 1997, he was First Secretary (political) at the Indian Embassy, while his wife had also been First Secretary (commerce). After a sojourn in Colombo, he returned to US in 2005 in the permanent mission of India to the United Nations. His wife was then appointed to the Consulate General in the same city.