Former Foreign Secretary Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar who took charge on Friday as India’s new External Affairs Minister in the Modi cabinet brings with him not only rich experience of a top diplomat who has served in key positions but also sharing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of pursuing India’s foreign policy to further the country’s national interests.
“Welcome back! We are proud to have Dr S Jaishankar as the new External Affairs Minister of India,” tweeted External Affairs Ministry’s official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar. Dr Jaishankar was welcomed by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale and Mr Kumar when he reached the South Block office of the External Affairs Ministry later in the day.
Soon after he took charge as External Affairs Minister, the official spokesperson tweeted: “Back at the South Block, in a new role.”
Prime Minister Modi sprang a surprise by including Dr Jaishankar as a Union Cabinet Minister in Thursday’s swearing in of his council of ministers for the second consecutive time after 2014.
In handpicking Dr Jaishankar, Mr Modi has shown that the talent of the former foreign secretary was being recognized by the government.
A career diplomat belonging to the 1977 batch of Indian Foreign Service (IFS), Dr Jaishankar served as India’s ambassador to the U.S. as well as China. Interestingly, he was also the choice of then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh as Foreign Secretary but the appointment could not materialize.
It was Dr Jaishankar’s tenure as India’s envoy in Beijing that he had a chance to meet Mr Modi as Gujarat Chief Minister who was visiting China. Later, as Indian ambassador in Washington he played a key role in firming up all aspects of Mr Modi’s visit to the U.S. as Prime Minister.
PM Modi cut short the tenure of the then Foreign Secretary Sujata Singh and appointed Dr Jaishankar in her place. Dr Jaishankar’s had extended tenure as Foreign Secretary from 2015 to 2018.
Dr Jaishankar also played a crucial role in resolving the Doklam stand-off with China in 2017 which turned out to be one of the worst crises facing the two neighbours. His expertise in dealing with China came handy in resolving the Doklam stand-off when soldiers from the two countries were in confrontational mode.
During UPA regime, he was involved in negotiating the landmark and controversial Indo-US nuclear deal. As Foreign Secretary in the Modi government, he emerged as a trouble shooter on whom the Prime Minister relied heavily.
Dr Jaishankar replaces senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj who had endeared herself to the people by her easy accessibility and prompt response on social media, including micro blogging site twitter, in solving the problems of stranded Indians or those caught in difficult situations.
Though Dr Jaishankar does not have any political experience, his clear approach and quick wit will come handy during debates in Parliament.
Dr Jaishankar will be assisted by V Muraleedharan, a sitting Rajya Sabha MP and a former BJP president in the southern state of Kerala, as the Minister of State in the Ministry.