Sujatha Singh, an Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer of 1976 batch will be India’s next Foreign Secretary. A former India’s High Commissioner in Australia and currently envoy to Germany, she will succeed Ranjan Mathai and will take over on August 1.
Her name for the coveted assignment was cleared after PM’s return from his visit to Kashmir.
Earlier, speculations were rife that S. Jaishankar, India’s Ambassador to China, could get the top job. He is junior to Sujatha Singh. There were reports that she along with other diplomats, senior to Jaishankar, were contemplating resignation in case of his elevation.
Finally, the Prime Minister plumped for seniority.
She will be the third woman after Chokila Iyer and Nirupama Rao-to become Foreign Secretary. Her appointment as India’s topmost assignment follows an intense debate whether the government should strictly go by seniority in appointing foreign secretary.
Singh is the senior-most diplomat Mathai. In the appointment of both Mathai and his predecessor Nirupama Rao, the government had chosen to go strictly by seniority.
As she was former India’s High Commissioner in Australia, Indian community of Australia is overwhelmed with the approval of her appointment as next Foreign Secretary.
Harish Velji (Chairperson of sub-continent Friends of Labor) welcomed Sumatha’s appointment as the new Foreign Secretary, envisioning its positive impact on the Australia -India relationship.
“The appointment at a time when the uranium sale to India and free trade agreement treaty dialogue is taking place, her appointment is a welcome step. With her knowledge of Australia and the contacts she has established with the community people will help in strengthening the relationship”, he maintained.
He said that Sujatha is enjoying high level of respect from the Australian Indian community and, therefore, her elevation will enhance the relationship and it will be a good omen as Indians are the highest migrants to Australia.
Manoj Kumar (President of Cleantech business sector at AIBC-Victoria), described Sujatha’s appointment as a positive development, saying while she was Indian High Commissioner in Australia, she worked closely with the community members.
She was helpful and willing to listen to the community, he said adding that despite being a bureaucrat, she possesses strong leadership qualities. “She was very successful in building strong India-Australia relationships and faced all the challenges confidently”, he said.
“While she was Indian High Commissioner in Australia, there was much hue and cry over the student issue in Australia, especially in Melbourne but it was her efforts that things became better. She held discussions with Australian Commission regarding this. She knows Australia and she can use her expertise to improve the relations further. Her elevation will make a positive impact on education”, he hoped.
Dr Yadu Singh (Cardiologist and President, Indian Australian Association of NSW) recalled Sujatha’s tenure as Indian High Commissioner in Australia until last year and said she played a critical role in managing Indian students’ issues in Australia during 2009-10. She was a popular High Commissioner, networking effectively with the Indian community and had initiated an innovative approach of an annual meeting with Indian community representatives from all over Australia, organized by the High Commission in Canberra, where people presented and discussed issues related to community, he said.
Dr Singh said that visa system and processes were streamlined too, due to her initiative and leadership, thus removing a major irritation for the community.
“ I have no doubt she would be a great Foreign Secretary for India. On a personal note, her father was the Governor of Uttar Pradesh until 2009. On my request, he visited my village in UP which turned out to be very helpful to the people of the village”, he added.
Amarinder Bajwa (Vice president Sikh Council Of Australia) described the appointment of Sujatha Singh as India’s Foreign Secretary as a great event and said while she was Indian Ambassador in Australia she did a commendable job.
“She was very good with the community people. She did wonderful job in strengthening India-Australia relationships. She gave momentum to the Uranium sales to India and worked very hard. I think her appointment as Foreign Secretary will boost India- Australia ties further”, he maintained.