NEW DELHI (TIP): In a surprise move, Foreign Secretary Sujata Singh resigned eight months before her term was to end. Her place has been taken by Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India’s envoy to the United States. Dr. Jaishankar took charge of his new assignment on January 29.
Sujata Singh is the first Foreign Secretary to be removed unceremoniously after Rajiv Gandhi removed AP Venkateswaran 28 years ago in 1987.
From all accounts, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been unimpressed with Singh and her work, and had made no secret of it in the past months. There had been talk of a change for some time, but Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj is said to have wanted Singh to stay on.
The decision was finally taken to remove her after the Obama visit. Jaishankar was earlier needed in Washington to lay the groundwork for what Modi wanted to be two back-to-back headline-grabbing summits.
Jaishankar’s appointment promises sweeping changes to the ministry of external affairs. In the past six months, no ambassadorial appointments have been cleared by the government. The MEA had sent in recommendations but they were not cleared by the PMO, partly because the PM wanted to make the changes at the helm first.
A slew of ambassadorial and joint secretary changes are waiting to be made which are now likely to go through. Among the first decisions will be to appoint a successor to Jaishankar in
Washington DC. In the first week of February, he will preside over the first heads of mission meeting called during the NDA government. He is expected to get a freer hand in MEA because the PM believes he can take out-of-the-box decisions.