Former Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar took charge as the new external affairs minister on Friday. The 64-year-old, from the 1977 batch is well versed in the India-China relations, India-US and has on many occasions been present as a troubleshooter for the government when he was the Foreign Secretary.
This is not the first time that an Indian Foreign Service official is part of the government. In the past, the position of President, Vice-President, and other high profile offices have been held, former diplomats. In the case of Jaishankar, he is the first former IFS officer to join the government without being a member of the ruling party.
He has also played a major role in clearing the path of the nuclear deal with the United States and has to his credit inviting the former US President Barack Obama as a chief guest on Republic Day. Besides solving the issue of the stapled visas which were issued to the residents of Arunachal Pradesh, he resolved boundary issues between India and China. As a foreign secretary, he successfully helmed the response to the 73-day Doklam standoff in 2017.
He is the man behind the successful first visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the US, and the massive relief operation in Nepal after the devastating earthquake in April 2015. He is responsible for pushing India’s campaign for a seat at the Nuclear Suppliers Group and other export control regimes.
The broadening of the country’s maritime diplomacy by reaching out to the Asia-Pacific region, Quad dialogue involving India, Japan, US and Australia was all during his tenure the Foreign Secretary in 2017.
He has been Indian ambassador to the US where he ensured that the India-US relations were on track before he became the foreign secretary. After retirement, Jaishankar joined as President of Tata Sons Global Corporate Affairs.
Economic and Energy diplomacy has to be clearly articulated and robust to match India’s rising aspirations.
Regions like Latin America, Central Asia, Africa, the growing tensions in West Asia will need his immediate focus besides issues related to the US tariffs, and immigration. The US sanctions on Iran, Russia, too will need attention.
According to foreign policy experts, the immediate neighborhood needs to be managed, and the fight against terrorism needs to be fought hard.
Latin America and Africa are two regions, wherein the last five years several high profile visits have taken place, but there is still a lot more to be done. The two continents are witnessing changes politically and this is the moment for India to play a significant role.
Major powers like the US, Russia, the European Union, China and Japan is expected to attract the attention as India has been increasingly focusing on the dual tasks of external stability and economic growth rates.
China’s forays into the Indian Ocean remain a matter of concern and India will have to undertake appropriate measures to safeguard our interests.