Seasoned diplomat Vijay Keshav Gokhale, considered an expert on China and East Asia, today took charge as India’s foreign secretary, a post that he is set to hold for the the next two years.
A 1981-batch Indian Foreign Service officer, Gokhale succeeds S Jaishankar.
Gokhale served as secretary (economic relations) in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) before taking up the new role.
The Press Trust of India reported that as Foreign Secretary, he will face multiple challenges including improving ties with countries such as Nepal, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Myanmar in India’s neighbourhood, where China has been seeking to expand its influence.
It will also have to be seen whether he brings certain changes to India’s approach in dealing with Pakistan.
Gokhale had played a key role in negotiations to resolve the 73-day-long Doklam standoff between Indian and Chinese Armies last year.
He was India’s Ambassador to China from January 20, 2016, to October 21, 2017, before moving back to the MEA headquarters in India.
His earlier diplomatic assignments include postings in Hong Kong, Hanoi, Beijing and New York. He had also served as Deputy Secretary (Finance), Director (China and East Asia) and Joint Secretary (East Asia) during his stints at the MEA here.
He was High Commissioner of India to Malaysia from January, 2010, to October, 2013, Ambassador of India to the Federal Republic of Germany from October, 2013, to January, 2016, and Ambassador of India to the People s Republic of China from January, 2016, to October, 2017.
Gokhale will have a two-year term. Under the rules, the posts of foreign secretary, defence and home secretaries, CBI and IB chiefs are for two years.
Earlier this month, the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the appointment of Gokhale to the post of foreign secretary.
Jaishankar was appointed foreign secretary in January, 2015, for two years, just a few days before his retirement. He replaced Sujata Singh, whose term was abruptly cut short by the government.
A 1977-batch IFS officer, Jaishankar was given a one-year extension in January last year. (Colombo Gazette)