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External Affairs in safe hands

External Affairs in safe hands

While there were several surprises stacked in the unveiling of the new Council of Ministers, anticipation soared over possible portfolios they might hold. Finance Ministry, vacated by an ailing Arun Jaitley, was the centre-stage of speculations as predictions flew in galore. Piyush Goyal and Amit Shah were discussed as possible incumbents but to everyone's surprise, Nirmala Sitharaman is the new and first full-time Union Finance Minister. On the other hand, the obvious choice of Rajnath Singh for the seat of Home Minister was put in Amit Shah's bowl as Rajnath was handed over the charge of Defence Ministry. The three ministries of Defence, Finance and Home were obviously the most-anticipated ones but part of the big four which had a surprise in store was the external affairs minister. Former foreign secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar is the new Union Minister for External Affairs. Many would opine that the minute Jaishankar was spotted at the swearing-in dais, his fate was sealed to become the foreign minister. And, they have their reasons to believe so since Jaishankar has been the foreign guy for Prime Minister Modi. From a diplomat to Union Foreign Minister, Jaishankar has been the most surprising yet valuable inclusion into Modi's cabinet. While everyone knows that Jaishankar has been close to Modi since his stint as the foreign secretary from 2015-18, often accompanying him on foreign visits upon PM's insistence, acceding the seat of foreign minister remains a rabbit-out-of-the-hat move by PM Modi. Jaishankar's one-year extension as foreign secretary cites the level of faith Modi has in him and maybe that corroborates the decision to give him MEA. Jaishankar's history as a diplomat only compliments the post he has got in Modi's cabinet. For him, assuming office at South Block might not be a new affair though heading it is obviously going to be both a matter of pride and thrill. Dubbed as the architect of Indo-US nuclear deal signed back in 2008, Jaishankar's foreign tales definitely make him a man of impact. Known to close circles as the man behind Modi's foreign policies in his first term is now the face of those in his second. Jaishankar's academic qualification – PhD and MPhil in International Relations besides MA in Political Science – as well as his three-decade-long foreign stints make him the most competent person to take over the requisite office; he is considered one of the mightiest brains on strategic affairs in the country. His father, K Subrahmanyam, is credited with drafting the country's first-ever policy on its nuclear strength and arsenal and formatting the "no first use" policy. Negotiation regarding the resolution between India and China at Doklam last year is also credited to Jaishankar. Though Modi knew Jaishankar from his days as ambassador to China, it was his posting in the US which caught Modi's eye and gave impetus to his promotion as foreign secretary. Clearly, during his time as the foreign secretary, Jaishankar left a resounding remark of his expertise in handling foreign affairs and Modi has rightly recalled that in giving Jaishankar the foreign ministry.

Foreign affairs is a matter that the PM himself keeps a close watch at and with Modi's first five years being a super success in terms of bilateral ties and foreign visits, the next five have plenty of new avenues in store. Jaishankar, meanwhile, will have to cater to various external affairs that India must pay heed to viz. Pakistan policy, Iran Oil conundrum, BIMSTEC progress as well as negotiating better terms with the US after suspension of the preferential trade system (GSP). Jaishankar will also have to cater to India's global influence and stature extending to key multilateral forums like G-20, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, ASEAN, SAARC and BRICS. A membership bid in UNSC and NSG is also what India desires and while as foreign secretary, Jaishankar could do only so much, being the foreign minister, he has been empowered by Modi to take decisions he could not earlier. Padma Shri Jaishankar has the floor for the next five years to decide India's strides on the global front while crafting quality bilateral relationships with countries over a flurry of themes from security cooperation to trade agreements and mutual development. India's foreign policy is going to be crucial in the next five years given the development on cards and the fact that we are the fastest emerging economy in the world right now clocking an impressive GDP and making breakthroughs in space and defence.

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