Nobody will question the appointment of S Jaishankar as the new foreign secretary. As Indian ambassador in the US, he played a significant role in making prime minister Narendra Modi’s maiden US visit and US president Barack Obama’s second visit to India a grand success. The UPA government had given him prize postings like in Beijing and Washington. He was the one who silently negotiated the nuclear deal with Washington which has now become a reality. In other words, he fulfils all the criteria for the highest diplomatic post in the country. Nonetheless, the government could have shown greater finesse in the manner in which he was appointed.
The government showed needless alacrity in removing Sujatha Singh, who had eight more months to go as foreign secretary. She was reportedly kept out of the loop insofar as Obama’s visit was concerned and she was removed soon after the US president left the Indian shores. She is the fourth foreign secretary whose tenure was cut short for unexplained reasons. Jagat Mehta, A P Venkateswaran and S K Singh were the three others who were sent packing by various regimes. In the instant case, it would have been much better if the woman was given an assignment befitting her stature and appointed Jaishankar as foreign secretary in which capacity he could have organised Obama’s visit much better. Also, there would have been no rancour among the diplomatic corps.
Every political leader in power has his or her own style of functioning. In case of Modi, it is clear that he depends heavily on some chosen bureaucrats to run the government. He trusts and uses them to leave his own imprint on the government. Soon after he took over as PM, he held two meetings of senior bureaucrats to tell them that they should not be afraid of carrying out the policies of his government. To put it differently, a happy and dedicated bureaucracy is key to the success of the government. This is all the more reason that the prime minister should handle bureaucrats with greater sophistication.