Centre likely to put off key ambassadorial postings - The New Indian Express

Centre likely to put off key ambassadorial postings

Published: 02nd December 2012 09:28 AM

Last Updated: 02nd December 2012 09:28 AM

Even as a number of diplomatic posts abroad and senior positions in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) will be awaiting new replacements, the Centre is likely to delay the key appointments in the run-up to pick the next Foreign Secretary.

Earlier this week, the Foreign Service Board had met here to decide on mostly second-rung diplomatic positions, but it had decided to keep in abeyance the decision on some key posts, which were long overdue for change.

No decision was taken on new officers to become the country’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN in New York, the Deputy Chief of Mission in Washington as well as that of the Consul General in Toronto, with the current incumbents–M S Puri, Arun Kumar Singh and Preeti Saran–having completed over three years in their respective posts. 

According to sources, there were several takers, but no replacements were announced, as the suitable senior slots had to be found for officers. While Puri and Saran both belong to the 1982 batch, Arun Kumar Singh is from the 1979 batch.

Arun Kumar Singh’s name had been mentioned as a possible successor to Hardeep Singh Puri, whose extension ends in February 2013. But, there is also a strong contender in the race for the top post, 1978 batch IFS officer Asoke Kumar Mukherjee, currently posted as Special Secretary (political) at the headquarters. Incidentally, besides being a batchmate of External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid at the capital’s St Stephen’s college, Mukherjee was also personal secretary (PS) to Khurshid, during the latter’s previous stint in South Block as a junior minister.

At the same time, there is still uncertainty if a decision on the New York PR job will be taken before Puri leaves. The dilemma arises as the PR position is often given to one of the ‘losing’ candidates for the Foreign Secretary’s post, with the term of incumbent Ranjan Mathai ending in July-end.

The front-runners in the race for the country’s top diplomatic post are Ambassador to Germany Sujatha Singh (1976), Ambassador to China S Jaishankar (1977), Secretary Sudhir Vyas (1977) and Ambassador to the UK Jaimini Bhagwati (1976). However, the race is expected to narrow down mainly to a toss-up between Sujatha, daughter of former UP governor and Intelligence Bureau chief T V Rajeshwar, and Jaishankar, described as a “brilliant” officer, who has the advantage of having been posted in the country’s neighbourhood.

Not surprisingly, the other postings are linked to the choice of the new Foreign Secretary. For example, Ashok Kantha (1977) has been in Colombo for over three years and is eyeing the prestigious appointment of the Indian Ambassador in Beijing.

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