As the Rafale soared into the skies in Bordeaux, India’s ambassador to France Jawed Ashraf was at the Merignac airport to say bon voyage. Interestingly, his association with the "beauty and beast" is not merely in his capacity as the envoy to France. He is a person who has seen the deal materialise and take-off within five years from his tenure in the Prime Minister's office as a joint secretary to his posting in Paris now.
A 1991-batch IFS officer, Ashraf took charge as India's envoy to France about two weeks ago on July 13. He tweeted to say, “Assumed charge today as Ambassador of Indian to France. A 13-hour journey from Singapore. Different continent, country and city. A new home and a new office. However, the same mission: serving our country and our people.”
His counterpart in India, Ambassador Emmanuel Lenain, congratulated him on his posting by replying - "Happy first Bastille Day to my new counterpart in Paris @JawedAshraf5. India has chosen an outstanding professional to manage an exceptional relationship!"
Before heading to Paris, Ashraf was India's envoy to Singapore from 2016. This too was considered a crucial posting as Singapore companies are involved in India's smart city and urbanisation projects and some collaborating in the health and tech sector as well. It has also played an important role in India's association with the ASEAN, a grouping critical especially as India deals with an aggressive neighbour, China.
In April 2015, when the Prime Minister Modi visited Paris and announced that India would acquire 36 Rafale jets in fly-away condition, the Foreign Service Officer, Ashraf, was in the PMO. In fact, he transitioned from Manmohan Singh's tenure to the Modi tenure in the PMO.
In October 2015, Vinay Mohan Kwatra, a 1988-batch IFS officer, was appointed OSD in PMO. After a brief transition period, Jawed Ashraf moved on from PMO to his next posting. Meanwhile, India and France signed the MoU on Rafale jets in January, 2016 when President Francois Hollande visited India as the Republic Day chief guest.
A year later, in 2017, Vinay Mohan Kwatra was appointed as India's ambassador to France. This time, Kwatra handed over the reins in Paris to Ashraf. He is now envoy to Nepal, a friendly neighbour with which India is currently facing an uneasy equation due to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli's obvious leanings towards Beijing.