Indian foreign ministry being recast to align with new foreign policy priorities2 min read . Updated: 28 Sep 2020, 08:28 PM IST
The idea behind the rejig is to look at countries from Thailand to the Pacific Island states as belonging to one region
NEW DELHI: India’s foreign ministry is being recast to align with its new foreign policy priorities – the Indo-Pacific region.
The ministry has created an entirely new division, headed by a senior officer of the rank of additional secretary, that will focus on the South East Asian nations, Pacific Island states and the larger Indo-Pacific in a clear sign of the importance that the Modi government accords to the region.
The Southern Division that looked after a swathe of countries from Thailand to Australia and New Zealand will be part of the new “Oceania" division as will be Indo-Pacific division. Besides countries in Southeast Asia, the “Oceania" division will include Pacific Island states like the Cook Islands, Tuvalu, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, the Marshal Islands, Solomon Islands and Tonga among others.
The new “super division" will be headed by Additional Secretary Reenat Sandhu. It will also be manned by two director rank officers -- Geetika Srivastava and Paulomi Tripathi from the 2005 and 2007 batch respectively.
The idea behind the rejig is to look at countries from Thailand to the Pacific Island states as belonging to one region, Mint has learnt. Putting an additional secretary rank official in charge of the division also underlines the importance that the ministry – headed by Foreign Minister S Jaishankar and Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla – attach to the region. The move signals that New Delhi will be giving decisive shape to its engagement with countries in the Indo-Pacific.
The new administrative entity is coming into existence at a time when the foreign ministers of the “Quad countries" – the US, Japan, Australia and India – are expected to meet in Japan next month. The meeting in Japan will be the second at the foreign minister level after the one in Washington in September last year. All four countries support a “free" and “open" Indo-Pacific with freedom of navigation and overflight. It comes amid concerns over the rise of China and its muscle flexing in the South China Sea, East China Sea and the Taiwan Straits. China views the "Quad" as aimed at containing it.
In recent years, India has forged new links with the Pacific Island states besides strengthening its cooperation with countries in Southeast Asia. Indian ships have made port calls in many of the Southeast Asian nations. New Delhi has also signed agreements for the use of logistics facilities with Australia and Japan in recent months – crystallising cooperation in the “Quad." The recast also comes amid news reports of the “Quad" possibly looking to expand and include in its ambit countries like Vietnam.