NEW DELHI: In a long-awaited development, the government on Wednesday appointed S Jaishankar as the new foreign secretary, curtailing the fixed two-year-term of Sujatha Singh with immediate effect.
Jaishankar, who had long been seen to have earned the favour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was to have retired on Saturday. He obviously could not have been appointed FS, once he left the service.
The order of the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet says that the tenure of Sujatha Singh (1976 batch IFS) has been curtailed with “immediate effect”.
“Appointment of Dr S Jaishankar, IFS 77, as Foreign Secretary vice Sujatha Singh IFS 76, with a tenure of two years from the date of assumption of charge or until further orders, whichever is earlier, in keeping with the provisions of FR 56(d),” said the order.
It means, if Jaishankar takes over on Thursday as expected, he will be foreign secretary till end of January 2017.
This is the first time the tenure of the foreign secretary has been “curtailed” since the tenure got a fixed term.
According to sources, Sujatha Singh had apparently put in her papers on Wednesday, unhappy over the offer made to her. Her tenure would have ended on July 31.
It was long known in the power corridors that Modi had become an admirer of Jaishankar’s expertise, especially as both US and India moved quickly towards a summit in the early months. There had been persistent buzz since the Modi government took over that Jaishankar would be brought back to Delhi in some capacity.
A brilliant officer, Jaishankar has illustrious pedigree. His late father K Subrahmanyam was the doyen of the Indian strategic community. Sujatha’s father is ex-Intelligence Bureau chief T V Rajeswar.
Jaishankar’s appointment is being seen as thanksgiving for finally getting the India-US civil nuclear deal through and the two excellent bilateral visits by Modi and Barack Obama.
Modi was apparently very happy with the reception he got in Washington for the summit in September last.