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Former diplomats hail Jaishankar's appointment as foreign minister


Press Trust of India New Delhi
Former diplomats and international affairs experts hailed ex-foreign secretary S Jaishankar's appointment as the Minister of External Affairs, saying he is entering the political arena with a wealth of diplomatic experience.
Vivek Katju, former secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, said Jaishankar has an "outstanding record" as a diplomat and he will prove to be "great assistance" to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he formulates his policy.
"He is a fine professional. Track records of India diplomats being good public men and good political personalities have been very good... Nonetheless, it is one thing to be professionally competent. But, when you enter a political arena, there is a new dimension.
"Jaishankar would have to prove himself as a fine political figure. I think he will do that well," he said.
Jaishankar, 64, took charge of the External Affairs ministry Friday, a rare instance of a career diplomat handling the key portfolio as minister.
Considered an expert on China and the US, the new External Affairs minister's moves will be keenly watched to see whether he brings any changes in India's approach in dealing with a hostile Pakistan.
The 1977-batch IFS officer was a surprise pick in the Modi Cabinet, whose members took oath on Thursday, and he will succeed Sushma Swaraj in the ministry, where he had served as a foreign secretary from 2015-2018.
Former Ambassador of India to Kazakhstan and Sweden, Ashok Sajjanhar said there is no reason, whatsoever to doubt, "this is an excellent choice".
Jaishankar will bring with him over 40 years of valuable experience from the diplomatic field and he understands India's relations with major countries including the US, Russia and China, and the challenges ahead he said.
Son of the late K Subrahmanyam, one of India's leading strategic analysts, Jaishankar was a key member of the Indian team which negotiated the landmark Indo-US nuclear deal.
The deal, initiated in 2005, took several years to craft, and was signed by the UPA government headed by Manmohan Singh in 2007.
"His father was one of the best known strategic analysts of India, so, strategic thinking is in his DNA, in his blood. But, he cut his teeth in MEA through his career, and started his career in Moscow when it was part of the USSR," Sajjanhar said.
The former ambassador also said he provided "real impetus" to the bilateral partnership between India and the US when he was the joint secretary (Americas).
"He has served as an ambassador in China.. He knows China, and has a healthy respect for what China has been able to achieve, but notwithstanding, he is also very clear that India needs to stand up when its interests are under attack, and that is what happened in Doklam, when he was the foreign secretary," Sajjanhar added.
The biggest challenge confronting India today going forward would be, how to manage its relation with China, both in terms of competition and cooperation, he said.
"Jaishankar has a good understanding of the geo-politics dynamics that prevails today, these elements he understands and appreciates. He has navigated through these geo-political changes that has been taking place and, therefore particularly suited (for the job)," the former envoy to Sweden said.
Another retired diplomat, who did not wish to be named, said Jaishankar is an "excellent choice" and his experience in the diplomatic field will stand him in good stead in the political arena.
Katju said for Jaishankar, the main challenge would be the western neighbour, and he would have to "give priority" as Pakistan is a constant challenge.
He also said former extrenal affairs minister Sushma Swaraj has paid a lot of attention to Indian diaspora and Indians who would be in trouble abroad.
Swaraj has been known to help many Indian citizens or Indian-origin people stranded abroad or facing other issues, after having reached out to her through social media.
"That is a tradition, people in pubic life would expect Jaishankar to continue," Katju said.

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First Published: May 31 2019 | 8:15 PM IST

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