Veteran diplomat Vijay Keshav Gokhale, currently Secretary (Economic Relations) in the External Affairs Ministry, was on Monday named as the next Foreign Secretary, ending the suspense on whether the incumbent S Jaishankar, a trusted lieutenant of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, would get another extension.
The appointment of the 1981 batch IFS officer for a fixed two-year period,was announced by the Department of Personnel and Training after it was approved by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet.
‘’The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet has approved the appointment of Vijay Keshav Gokhale (IFS: 1981) as the Foreign Secretary vice Dr S Jaishankar, who is completing his tenure on 28 January,’’ an official order said.
A low-profile but extremely efficient diplomat, Gokhale was until recently India’s Ambassador to China and conducted thorny negotiations to bring to an end the 72-day military stand-off at Doklam. His no non-sense approach in dealing with the Chinese came in for much appreciation from all quarters.
A post graduate in history from Delhi University, Gokhale has served the country in various capacities 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 the Ministry of External Affairs. He has also been India’s envoy to Malaysia and Germany.
Gokhale is also said to enjoy a good equation with Jaishankar, who was appointed Foreign Secretary on 29 January, 2015 for two years. Subsequently, he was given a one-year extension in January last year. The speculation is already on that given his proximity to the PM, Jaishankar might be given some other key responsibility.
Gokhale will have to navigate the country’s foreign policy at a time when relations with both key neighbours China and Pakistan have touched a new low.