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Sujata Singh may replace Mathai as foreign secretary

Sujata Singh may  replace Mathai as foreign secretary
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The race for a new foreign secretary seems to have reached the last lap, with the government making up its mind on selecting a woman officer as...

The race for a new foreign secretary seems to have reached the last lap, with the government making up its mind on selecting a woman officer as the country's top diplomat. Top-level sources say that Sujata Singh, India's ambassador to Germany, is expected to be named officially soon, and will formally take over after the tenure of foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai ends in July this year. If the government sticks to its preferred choice, the 1976-batch Singh will be the third woman to head the country's foreign office, after Chokila Iyer and Nirupama Rao. Speculation is already rife that Singh has been sounded out. Germany, which used to be handled by the secretary, West, in the ministry of external affairs has recently been added to the charge of the foreign secretary, fuelling speculation that it Singh who impressed upon South Block the need to ensure that it is added to the foreign secretary's charge before she formally takes over. Besides, the Prime Minister is also scheduled to make a trip to Germany for a bilateral summit; it is likely that Singh will move to Delhi soon after. Earlier too, Germany was part of the charge handled by the foreign secretary, but that changed in 2005. What seems to have helped Singh pip the other contender, India's envoy to China S. Jaishankar, is that she is one batch senior. The government went by the seniority principle in the case of the appointment of the CBI director Ranjit Sinha, who is the seniormost IPS officer, and the same principle will be followed for the post of foreign secretary. The government is also keen to be seen as being fair to women professionals. Singh's name has also been endorsed by external affairs minister Salman Khurshid. A Professional skills apart, Singh comes with a good pedigree: she is the daughter of former Uttar Pradesh governor T V Rajeshwar, a former director of the Intelligence Bureau believed to have close connections with the Gandhi family. Singh's husband Sanjay is currently a secretary in the ministry of external affairs and will retire in April this year. Sources say Singh was sent feelers initially that if she would want to take another ambassadorial post with an extended tenure but she is believed to have turned it down. Those opposing her elevation in the PMO had argued that she has not been an ambassador in a neighbouring country, which is a strong point of S Jaishankar. This was, however, countered by Singh's supporters who pointed out that Singh was desk officer for Nepal in the MEA headquarters and handled the ministry's crucial West Europe division, where India will need a lot of repair work to do following the recent stand-off with Italy and with the ongoing investigations into the AgustaWestland deal. OPINION
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