New Delhi, June 26: Sujata Singh, India's ambassador to Germany, has been appointed as the new Foreign Secretary. She is the senior most officer in the Indian Foreign Service and will succeed Rajan Mathai.
Though S Jaishankar, envoy to Beijing, was believed to be Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's choice, the Congress party was not keen to overlook the IFS officers' seniority order to appoint the successor of Mathai. Mathai, a 1974-batch IFS officer, is set to retire on July 31.
Sujata Singh, the senior-most in the 1976 batch, was next in line and a frontrunner. But the Prime Minister had been strongly favouring Jaishankar.
The move to supersede Sujata Singh and other senior diplomats created a flutter within the Ministry of External Affairs. Not only Singh, but also other officials of her batch were unwilling to work under Jaishankar, a 1977-batch officer.
The memories of controversial appointment of Shiv Shankar Menon (currently National Security Advisor), as Foreign Secretary in 2006, are too recent to ignore.
Menon had superseded several officers senior to him and had triggered a revolt within the ministry in 2006.
Jaishankar is son of the late K Subrahmanyam, the strategic and security affairs expert who enjoyed a personal rapport with Manmohan Singh. But Jaishankar's pro-US leanings may have gone against him as well as the seniority issue.
Jaishankar was under secretary (Americas), and later headed the America division of the ministry of external affairs. From 1985 to 1988, he has served as first secretary handling political affairs in the embassy in Washington. He was the press secretary of the President of India from 1994 to 1995.
Sujata Singh is the daughter of Intelligence Bureau's former chief T V Rajeshwar, who is known to be close to the top brass of the Congress and was appointed as Governor of Uttar Pradesh just a few months after the United Progressive Alliance came to power in 2004. He was IB chief under Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.