New Delhi: One of the surprising faces in the newly constituted cabinet under PM Modi, former foreign secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has been allocated the Ministry of External Affairs.
Jaishankar was the foreign secretary from January 2015 to January 2018 and has previously held positions like the high commissioner to Singapore, and ambassador to China and the United States of America. He had played a key role in the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, and his performance as the Indian ambassador to the US had catapulted him to the coveted post of foreign secretary.
Former foreign secretary Sujata Singh was unceremoniously removed to make way for Jaishankar to take the post in 2015. While his credentials were never in doubt, a number of seniors were overlooked when Jaishankar was chosen as foreign secretary.
For long, Jaishankar has been considered Modi’s man Friday when it comes to foreign policy and strategic affairs. Those in the know said Modi’s relation with Jaishankar goes back to the time when the former was the Gujarat chief minister. During his visit to China as chief minister, Modi had met Jaishankar, who was the then Indian ambassador to China, on several occasions. Modi had come to know of his work over various discussions and meetings. One of the most significant investments that China made in India during Jaishankar’s time as ambassador came in the form of an agreement with Tebian Electric Apparatus for a plant in Gujarat.
A graduate of St Stephen’s College at the University of Delhi, Jaishankar has an MA degree in political science and an M.Phil and Ph.D in international relations from Jawaharlal Nehru University. He is from the 1977 IFS batch and his first major assignment came when he was appointed third secretary and first secretary in the Indian embassy in Moscow. Proficient in Russian, Jaishankar also has a good grasp of Japanese and Hungarian languages.
Jaishankar carries with him more than three decades of diplomatic experience and expertise and has also served as the press secretary for former President Shankar Dayal Sharma. It’s no surprise that Jaishankar is considered one of the mightiest brains on strategic affairs in the country. His father, K Subrahmanyam, is credited with drafting the country’s first-ever policy on its nuclear strength and arsenal and formatting the “no first use” policy.
Jaishankar, as a former diplomat cited, takes after his father. During his time as joint secretary (Americas) at the Ministry of External Affairs, Jaishankar played a significant role in negotiating the Indo-US nuclear deal and made it into a viable, coherent policy for both countries to work on in terms of more defence cooperation,
Jaishankar’s term as ambassador in the US was rough from the word go as he walked into the Devyani Khobragade controversy. Khobragade was the deputy consular general and was arrested in New York on charges of visa fraud with regards to her housekeeper Sangeeta Richard. Jaishankar is credited with negotiating Khobragade’s exit from the US.
Known to be a man of few words, Jaishankar is considered one of India’s strongest hands on China, having been the longest-serving ambassador to the country. He has played a crucial role in increasing engagements between both countries. He is credited with having negotiated an end to the stapled visas that the Chinese would issue to residents of and Kashmir.
Further, Jaishankar as foreign secretary is credited with helping negotiate the resolution between India and China at Doklam last year. During his term as foreign secretary, Jaishankar told a committee on external affairs, headed by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, that the border issue between India and China is the “world’s largest real estate dispute” and the committee should not expect the transgressions to go away somehow.