Former foreign secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar was today named Minister of External Affairs in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's new cabinet, replacing BJP leader Sushma Swaraj who held the post in PM Modi's first cabinet.
A career diplomat with extensive experience in bilateral relations with China, the United States and Pakistan, he becomes one of two new faces in the powerful Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS); the other is Home Minister Amit Shah, PM Modi's closest confidante and chief strategist.
His appointment comes at a time when India's relations with Pakistan are at a sensitive point following the tragic terror attack in Pulwama that killed 40 soldiers, triggered retaliatory air strikes by both sides and prompted former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to lash out at Pakistan as a "rogue state".
As the new foreign minister, S Jaishankar will also be expected to bring to bear experience from his time as the Indian ambassador to China and help improve relations with Beijing, which were badly hit following the Doklam stand-off in 2017. He played a key role in negotiations resolving that situation, as he did with the incursion in Ladakh's Depsang in 2013.
"China's influence in the world cannot be disregarded. We should be open to find a common ground which is in our national interest. But all of this requires a different mindset and stronger resolve," he was quoted in a report by news agency PTI.
Another challenge facing Mr Jaishankar is India's ties with the United States and Iran over sanctions which have hit India's oil imports.
Mr Jaishankar, 64, who is not yet a member of parliament, was greeted by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, who was earlier Minister of State for External Affairs, and described the new foreign minister as a "first class professional diplomat".
I am delighted that a first-class professional diplomat will lead the External Affairs Ministry. I have worked closely with @DrSJaishankar over the years &am confident that the conduct of foreign policy will be in capable hands. But we'll miss the personal touch of @SushmaSwaraj.— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) May 31, 2019
Raveesh Kumar, the official spokesperson of the ministry, tweeted "we are proud to have @DrSJaishankar as the new External Affairs Minister of India".
He was also a key member of the team that worked on the nuclear deal with the United States. The deal, initiated in 2005, took several years to craft, and was signed by the government headed by Manmohan Singh in 2007.
A 1977-batch IFS officer and son of the late K Subrahmanyam, one of India's leading strategic analysts, Mr Jaishankar is the country's longest-serving foreign secretary in four decades. He has also served as India's High Commissioner to Singapore and Ambassador to the Czech Republic.
After retiring in 2018, he took over as the Tata Group's president of Global Corporate Affairs. In 2019, Mr Jaishankar was conferred with Padma Shri, India's fourth highest civilian award.
A graduate of St Stephen's College, Mr Jaishankar is an MA in Political Science and an MPhil and PhD in International Relations from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).
With input from PTI
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