Jaishankar takes charge as foreign secretary

New Delhi: S. Jaishankar took charge as foreign secretary Thursday, a day after the government in a sudden decision curtailed the tenure of incumbent Sujatha Singh seven months before her term was to end.

Taking over his new job at South Block, where the ministry of external affairs is housed, Jaishankar said: “My priorities are the government’s priorities.”

He added he was “honoured” to be given the new posting.

The Narendra Modi government Wednesday night appointed Jaishankar, an Indian Foreign Service officer of 1977 batch, as the new foreign secretary.

The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, in a decision taken Wednesday night, decided to “curtail the tenure” of the incumbent Sujatha Singh, “with immediate effect”.

The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet is headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The committee, in a note, also said that Jaishankar, an Indian Foreign Service officer of 1977 batch, has been appointed the new foreign secretary for a period of two years.

Sujatha Singh had assumed office in August 2013 and was due to retire in August this year.

The surprise announcement came a day after US President Barack Obama left the country after a three-day visit during which India and the US saw a breakthrough announcement on the stalled civil nuclear deal.

Obama was the chief guest at the Republic Day parade, the first US president to grace the occasion.

Jaishankar as India’s ambassador to the US had played a key role in bridging the widening gulf in relations between the US and India after he took over in December 2013 and also played a major role in arranging Modi’s visit to the US last September.

Jaishankar was one of the key officials who negotiated the nuclear deal with the US as joint secretary (Americas) from 2004 to 2007 in the ministry of external affairs.

He was previously the envoy to China before moving as envoy to the US.

Jaishakar hails from an illustrious family of civil servants and is the son of Indian foreign policy doyen K. Subhramanyam.

In 2013, his name was being considered for foreign secretary, but Singh was chosen instead by the then Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government.