NEW DELHI: A 1981 batch IFS officer and former ambassador to China, Vijay Gokhale, has been appointed foreign Secretary, the government announced on Monday. As the ambassador in Beijing, Gokhale had played a key role in defusing the Doklam military stand-off between India and China, and in the eventual disengagement of the forces in what India considers to be Bhutanese territory.
Gokhale will replace S Jaishankar on January 28, when the latter completes 3 years as India’s top diplomat. Jaishankar has been known for his personal rapport with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In fact, there was some speculation that Jaishankar might get another extension. He had been appointed as foreign secretary in a dramatic fashion in January 2015, days ahead of his retirement.
He went on to get a year’s extension after completing his tenure in January 2017. An MA (history) from Delhi University, Gokhale is currently working as secretary (economic relations) in MEA. Widely acknowledged as a no-nonsense and levelheaded officer, he was brought back from China last year in what was seen as a move to groom him for the top job at MEA.
While he has preferred to work away from media glare, Gokhale has always come across to mediapersons, who have attended his briefings, as somebody who can express himself most succinctly on sensitive issues. Gokhale has also headed the East Asia Division of MEA and, in that capacity, dealt with all issues related to China and North Korea, apart from Japan, Mongolia and South Korea.
He has also served in Hong Kong, Hanoi and New York. He was high commissioner to Malaysia from January 2010 to October 2013, ambassador to Germany from October 2013 to January 2016, and to China from January 2016 to October 2017. That Jaishankar, who is of 1977 batch, did not get another extension could also be due to the fact that finance secretary Hasmukh Adhia is in the race for the post of cabinet secretary, the senior-most bureaucrat in the country.
Jaishankar’s position as foreign secretary would have become untenable to some in the event of Adhia taking over as cabinet secretary as the foreign secretary would then be senior to the cabinet secretary by 4 years. “The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet has approved the appointment of Vijay Keshav Gokhale (IFS: 1981), Secretary (Economic Relations), Ministry of External Affairs as the Foreign Secretary vice Dr S Jaishankar, who is completing his tenure on 28.01. 2018,” said a statement by the Department of Personnel and Training. Gojhale will have a 2-year term as foreign secretary.
Source : timesofindia