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Ousted foreign secretary bares heart

Sujatha Singh also kept away from her office, when the new incumbent took charge on Thursday. Singh’s angst at being unceremoniously removed becomes evident in the concluding paragraph of this letter , wherein she says, “While individuals can and do play a critical role in building institutions, I believe that no individual is larger than the institution. It can never be about individuals. It has to be about institutions and how institutions interface and coordinate with each other.” The letter found no mention, even good wishes, for her successor - S Jaishankar.

After Singh’s tenure was abruptly “curtailed”, S Jaishankar took charge as Foreign Secretary on Thursday.“Government’s priorities are my priorities,” he said while describing his new position as an “honour and a big responsibility“. Singh was not present when Jaishankar took charge at the South Block office. Jaishankar, a 1977-batch IFS officer, will have a two-year tenure as per the rules.

Before his sudden appointment as Foreign Secretary, the 60-year-old diplomat was India’s Ambassador to the United States. He had also been posted as Ambassador to China, Singapore and Czech Republic.

The decision to appoint Jaishankar, who played a key role during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US in September and US President Barack Obama’s just concluded visit, was taken by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet chaired by Modi. According to sources Sushma Swaraj was against the removal of Singh and was not kept in the loop  on Jaishankar’s appointment.

Meanwhile, the Opposition Congress questioned the timing of government’s decision to remove Singh and wondered whether it was “retribution” for her stand on IFS officer Devyani Khobragade.

“Is sacking of foreign secretary late retribution for her stand on Devyani Khobragade affair? Removal after a presidential visit ‘coincidental’?” tweeted former information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari.

While BJP’s Nalin Kohli said, “I don’t see any reason for the hue and cry. A government is within its rights to decide how it would like to appoint what officers and with what responsibilities. And this is not the first time. Preceding governments have taken (such) decisions. I do not see any reason that anyone can attribute any political motives. This is the right of the government.”
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