The metamorphosis of external affairs
By Devirupa Mitra - NEW DELHI
Published: 22nd Sep 2013 09:53:53 AM
By the end of this year, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) will feel like a new place, with most of the divisions expected to sport new heads—as the ministry goes through the latest cycle in transition.
Over a month before Sujatha Singh took over from Ranjan Mathai as foreign secretary, there had already been some changes afoot. The most important was that in the high-profile Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran (PAI) desk, when then incumbent, Y K Sinha, was posted to Colombo as the Indian envoy.
In Sinha’s place, 1994 batch Indian Foreign Service officer Rudrendra Tandon, who was director PAI, was promoted to this key post, which monitors some of the key bilateral relations with India.
As soon as Singh took over, there was another change—which had been in the pipeline—when the territorial desk head in charge of Nepal and Bhutan changed baton. Akhilesh Mishra moved as consul general to Toronto, and he was replaced by Abhay Thakur returning from his Hanoi posting.
But that’s not the end of the transformation. Mathai essentially inherited a ready-made team of experienced officers, who were in place when he took over. Singh’s arrival, however, coincided with one of those periods when there is higher level of movements of IFS officers, coming and going out of headquarters.
“By the end of this year, there will be several new faces… the ‘team’ should be in place,” said a senior MEA official.
The territorial desk head for Latin America and Caribbean, Dammu Ravi will be moving from Jawaharlal Nehru Bhawan on deputation to the Ministry of Commerce at the end of this month.
D Bala Venkatesh Varma, a 1998 batch IFS officer heading the Disarmament and Internal Security desk, will be eventually travelling to Geneva as India’s next Ambassador and Permanent Representative of India to the UN Conference on Disarmament. He will be succeeded by Amandeep Singh Gill (1992), who is counselor at the Geneva mission.
In about two months, joint secretary (Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Myanmar) H S Shringla (1984 batch) will be taking up ambassadorial post in Bangkok, while the neighbouring country of Malaysia will see a new Indian envoy in T S Tirumurti, currently posted as joint secretary (United Nations Economic and Social).
Pawan Kapoor, who as JS (UN political) has been here for nearly three years, will be likely posted as Indian ambassador to Mozambique.
There will also be a vacancy for joint secretary (administration) Anup Kumar Mudgal, who had a key role in transfers and appointments. He will be soon going away as Indian envoy to Mauritius.
The chief of protocol, Ruchira Kamboj (1987), who was the first woman officer to occupy this post, is also ready to go for a foreign posting. The additional secretary looking after East and Southern Africa, Ravi Bangar, will also leave for Cyprus by December.
Their successors have yet been announced, but officials point out that three joint secretaries are already idling in headquarters for nearly a month without any work. These are celebrated author Vikas Swarup (1986), Mukta Tomar (1984) and Pradeep Kumar Rawat (1990).
Earlier this week, Swarup, who had been consul general in Osaka-Kobe, was put on job to accompany PM’s special envoy Ashwani Kumar for a three-day Tokyo trip. Besides, Anupam Ray (1994), earlier director (ADP) and recently promoted to joint secretary-level, will have to be given a new portfolio.
Then, there are more incoming officers, including Tanmaya Lal (1991 batch) who was awarded the S K Singh award for best Indian diplomat. There is speculation that Lal, who had also worked with Sujatha Singh in the Europe (west) division, may be given some heavyweight portfolio.
The other officers expected to return to headquarters are Vinay Kumar (1992) from the Permanent Mission in New York and Suresh Reddy, Indian ambassador to Iraq.
Meanwhile, South Block remains abuzz about structural changes in the ministry, but officials said that they are not happening in the immediate future.
These ‘changes’, which some officials speculate could mean a rationalisation of responsibilities of divisions, may take place after new Secretaries, Anil Wadhwa and Dinkar Khullar, take charge in November-December. There is also a buzz that more territorial divisions in South Block may be asked to go to their allotted space in Jawaharlal Nehru Bhawan.