Gone are the days when appointing a Foreign Secretary was as unimportant as hiring a watchman. But with a full time globetrotting Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary has to be someone who needs to be at the beck and call of the PM. The term of the present Foreign Secretary ends on January 28. After the victory of Donald Trump, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Principal Secretary to PM Nripendra Mishra and NSA Ajit Doval held an urgent meeting, where it was decided that Jaishankar should be the first diplomat to meet with Trump’s team. Jaishankar had dealt with George W. Bush and Obama during the last 16 years. Jaishankar flew to the US and met some of the officials in the transition team, as Trump was busy. But like Obama, he too was treated as ‘lame duck’ FS. According to MEA sources, Anil Wadhwa, a 1979-batch IFS officer, Ambassador to Italy is the seniormost among the serving diplomats. He was transferred last year while he was serving as Secretary (East). Another competent diplomat, Sujata Mehta, a 1980-batch IFS officer, serving as Secretary (West) is waiting in the wings. There are three 1981-batch IFS officers–Navtej Sarna, current Ambassador to the USA, Amarendra Khatua, DG ICCR, and Secretary, Special Assignments, and Vijay Gokhale Ambassador to China–all eying the plum post. While the US under Trump will need careful handling, economic, strategic and security concerns are reason enough for Modi to select a China expert as Foreign Secretary. It is not certain who among the aspirants will make it to the top but what seems certain is that Jaishankar is not getting a second term. But why worry? There is no dearth of think-tanks in the US eagerly waiting to hire him.
VOL. 10 | ISSUE 10 | JAN 2017