Senior Indian Foreign Service officer (IFS) Taranjit Sandhu has been appointed as India’s ambassador to the United States (US), Ministry of Externals Affairs said Tuesday. Sandhu, currently India’s high commissioner to Sri Lanka, will succeed Harsh Vardhan Shringla, who will take charge as the country’s new foreign secretary on Wednesday.
Sandhu’s appointment comes at a time when New Delhi is looking to balance its strategic ties with the US amid tricky trade relations. India is looking at a trade pact with Washington and is readying for a visit by US President Donald Trump next month.
Sandhu, a 1988-batch IFS officer, has served twice before at the Indian mission in the US and his prior work experience may come handy. He was Deputy Chief of Mission at the Indian embassy in Washington between July 2013 and January 2017. Sandhu also held the position of First Secretary (Political) at Embassy of India, Washington responsible for liaison with the US Congress from 1997-2000. Between July 2005 and February 2009, Sandhu was posted at India’s Permanent Mission to the UN in New York.
Sandhu’s appointment is also crucial as India is facing criticism from the US Congress over Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and Kashmir policy following abrogation of Article 370. Democrat Congresswoman Pramila Jaypal has introduced a resolution in the US House of Representatives over Kashmir.
According to people familiar with the developments, positions that the new foreign secretary Shringla will have to appoint new people to in the coming months include London, India’s Permanent Mission to UN, Singapore, Turkey, Austria, Prague and the Consul General of India in New York.
Sandhu’s position in Colombo is expected to be filled by Gopal Baglay, presently additional secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office. In other appointments, India’s high commissioner to Singapore Jawed Ashraf will move to France as ambassador while ambassador to Paris Vinay Kwatra shift to Nepal in the same rank. Ajay Bisaria, India’s former high commissioner to Pakistan, is expected to take up a similar assignment in Canada.