Vijay Gokhale appointed as India’s foreign secretary
New Delhi: India on Monday named Vijay Gokhale its new foreign secretary, a step seemingly in line with its focus on China and east Asia.
An Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer of the 1981 batch, Gokhale will succeed S. Jaishankar of the 1977 batch, who worked on India's embrace of the US during his three-year tenure.
Gokhale, who takes charge on 28 February, will have a two-year term, during which he is likely to focus on India’s look east policy. At present, Gokhale is secretary for economic relations in the ministry of external affairs (MEA).
Gokhale, who was India’s ambassador to China from January 2016 to October 2017, deftly worked to avert any major crisis during a 73-day military standoff between the two countries in Bhutan’s Doklam plateau last year.
He has vast experience in dealing with East Asia and China, something that could come in handy as India's government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks to check Chinese influence in its immediate neighbourhood and East Asia.
Gokhale, a postgraduate in history from Delhi University, is known among his colleagues as someone who would speak his mind on policy matters rather than merely pursue orders.
After the Doklam standoff, Gokhale was named secretary of economic relations in the MEA in November, and led the annual India-Bhutan Development Cooperation Talks, which is an important bilateral mechanism to review the entire gamut of India’s development partnership with Bhutan. The bilateral meeting took place just days after India’s visit of Bhutan’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.
According to MEA, his previous diplomatic assignments include postings in Hong Kong, Hanoi, Beijing and New York.
He has also served as deputy secretary (finance), director (China & East Asia) and joint secretary (East Asia) during his stints at MEA in Delhi. He was also India’s High Commissioner to Malaysia from January 2010 to October 2013, following which he was India’s envoy to Germany from October 2013 to January 2016.
It was during his tenure as India’s ambassador to Germany that PM Modi inaugurated the Hanover-Messe in 2015 and exhorted the world to “Make in India”.
“Choosing Gokhale serves two simple purposes for government—one he fits the bill on seniority scale as he is not someone out of turn and thus does not create any disquiet within the ministry and two, he is a good choice because of his experience in dealing with China and several important assignments in the past few years,” said Ajay Darshan Behera, professor at the Academy of International Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia University.
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