NEW DELHI: A mere 10 days after his appointment, Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has already set the wheels in motion, with speculation rife on major changes in the upper echelons of the Ministry of External Affairs(MEA).
And the Narendra Modi Government finalised its Ambassadorial appointments this week,eight months after coming to power. Navdeep Suri and Vishnu Prakash were selected as envoys to Australia and Canada respectively.
The Ottawa mission fell vacant after incumbent, former Naval Chief Nirmal Verma’s tenure came to an end in November. The PM is expected to visit Canada in April during his foreign trip, which will also take him to Germany.
Prakash, a 1981-batch IFS officer, is currently the Ambassador to South Korea and a former official spokesperson.
The Seoul post may filled up by Ajit Kumar, currently Consul General in Atlanta.
The envoy’s post at Canberra mission too needed to be filled as High Commissioner Biren Nanda had retired last month. Better relations with the country has emerged one of the priorities of Modi’s international relations agenda.
Suri, an IFS officer of the 1983 batch, will be moving to Canberra from Cairo. He was in the news recently, after the PM’s Twitter account posted a link on yoga lessons being imparted to Egyptians by the Indian Cultural Centre.
Sources said the ministry would see three to four new appointments “this month”. These would certainly include the successor to Jaishankar in Washington and Indian Ambassador to France Arun Kumar Singh is the favourite.
Others, however, argued that Jaishankar had reportedly told senior officers last week that the foreign policy should be decided by professionals. If Singh moves from Paris, Mohan Kumar, who had earlier been Deputy Chief of Mission there, may move in after over four years in Bahrain.
The Foreign Secretary will also have to appoint a new official spokesperson, as Syed Akbaruddin is all set to move to Geneva as India’s permanent representative to the United Nations. He will be succeeding Dilip Sinha, who retired in November.
Meanwhile, there is a sense of apprehension in the South Block and Jawaharlal Nehru Bhavan, with talk of a reshuffle of Joint Secretaries doing the rounds.
The drastic step will be unprecedented, as the helm of the Foreign Office has not seen any out-of-turn rejig of Heads of Divisions.
However, former Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh’s tenure did see splits and mergers in some of the big divisions. Sources said there was an intense discussion about changes in the divisions directly supervised by the Foreign Secretary. It is expected that Jaishankar may bring in new faces from Beijing and Washington, where he had been posted as Ambassador earlier.
At the same time, it was also pointed out that both the capitals have only a couple of Joint Secretary-level officers.