By Neeraj Mahajan
Ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s back to back visits to the US and China later this year - perhaps the last before Singh’s second term as Prime Minister ends in May 2014– New Delhi seems inclined for a white wash operation-- replacing both its envoys in Washington and Beijing.
S Jaishankar, presently India’s envoy in Beijing will succeed Nirupama Rao as India’s ambassador in US while Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Ashok Kantha will replace Jaishankar as India’s new ambassador to China soon.
Both Jaishankar and Kantha are 1977-batch IFS officers.
Manmohan Singh’s will be on a bilateral visit to US is slated to meet President Obama later this month as well as attend the United Nations General Assembly. He would thereafter be visiting China in end October. Both the visits are seen as crucial for New Delhi’s relations with US and China.
Jaishankar, who is son of strategic affairs analyst late K. Subrahmanyam joined Indian Foreign Service (IFS) in 1977, has been New Delhi’s envoy to Beijing since August 2009. Prior to that, he was Indian High Commissioner in Singapore and ambassador to Czechoslovakia. Earlier as the head of Americas Division in MEA he actively took part in the civil nuclear cooperation agreement with the US and played a key role in smoothing tensions between India and China after incursion by Chinese troops in Ladakh in April this year.
Earlier there were speculations that Jaishankar was going to replace Ranjan Mathai as Foreign Secretary with the blessings of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). This raised quite a stink in the MEA. However when several senior diplomats senior reportedly threatened to resign the government decided in favour of Sujatha Singh who happened to be the senior most contender.
Likewise Ashok Kantha who served as Indian high Commissioner to Sri Lanka is the son-in-law of former external affairs minister and senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha.
Meanwhile S.Raghavan, Special Secretary in the external affairs ministry is likely to be India's new ambassador to Russia and in all likelihood former foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai may take over as India's next High Commissioner to Britain.