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December 13, 2017

Termination of Sujatha Singh’s tenure as Foreign Secretary raises questions


Lalit Shastri

Sujatha SinghWhy Sujatha Singh’s tenure as Foreign Secretary of India was curtailed abruptly after US President Barack Obama’s departure from New Delhi is a question being asked by discerning citizens.

When Mr. Obama was in New Delhi for the Republic day, in her capacity as Foreign Secretary of India, Ms. Singh had briefed the media about the Indo-US bilateral talks along with the then Indian Ambassador to USA and present Foreign Secretary Dr. S. Jaishankar and other officials of the Ministry of External Affairs.

During the media briefing when a journalist threw a poser and directly asked the now ousted Foreign Secretary “if any specific discussion was held during the summit level talks about terrorism and more specifically with regard to Pakistan because only a few days ago it had been reported that America has issued a warning to Pakistan and whether or not any arrangement has been discussed with regard to Jamat-ud-Dawa or anything specific that she would like to tell journalists beside this”

[Original question in Hindi: मेरा सवाल फॉरिन सेक्रेटरी से है. मेडम, यह जो पूरी बात-चीत हुई है, टेररिज़म को लेकर के कोई स्पेसिफिक बात-चीत हुई है क्या, खास तौर पर पाकिस्तान के परिप्रेक्ष्य में? क्यों की अभी कुछ दिन पहले यह बात आई थी की पाकिस्तान को अमेरिका की ऑर से चेतावनी दी गयी है. तो क्या कोई स्पेसिफिक बात हुई है, कोई एक अरेंज्मेंट डिसकस किया गया है जमात-उद-दावा के सिलसिले में या कोई और स्पेसिफिक चीज़ आप बता सकें)]

Ms. Singh replied: “As one of our most important strategic partners, we always discuss the entire range of issues of concern. And I can conform to you that the issue of terrorism was very much discussed and was addressed at some length by both the leaders.”

Immediately eye-brows were raised in knowledgeable circles over this reply, especially Ms. Singh’s remark –“as one of our most important strategic partners, we always discuss the entire range of issues of concern.” Her reply is being dubbed as not only undiplomatic but also misleading and tangent to the ground reality as issues to be discussed at a bilateral Summit are mutually fine-tuned in advance by two participating countries and then these are brought on table for discussion. By stating rather casually “as most important strategic partners, we always discuss the entire range of issues of concern” the former Foreign Secretary had obviously overstepped her brief.

Ms. Singh, a 1976 batch Indian Foreign Service Officer, was India’s Ambassador to Germany before she took over as Foreign Secretary on August 1, 2013. While the Congress background of her father, T. V. Rajeswar, a former Intelligence Bureau chief and former Governor under Congress rule is being projected by some as a possible cause of the balance tilting against her vis-a-vis the Modi regime, some senior bureaucrats and diplomats who have had the chance to work with her are extremely critical of her style of functioning and point out that she was destined to meet her Waterloo. Talking to Newsroom24x7, a former diplomat said there have been instances when she was least discreet while dealing with fellow officers. At another level, she has also been accused of going out of her way to extend undue favors. Inquiries have revealed that she had played a key role when all rules were broken and history was created in connection with a 1979 batch IFS officer, who continued to be a joint secretary and was denied promotion while his batch-mates were promoted due to multiple vigilance inquiries pending against him, He was promoted as additional secretary on March 1, 2014 and thirty days later on March 31, on the day of his retirement, he was even promoted as secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs.

Postscript: Sujatha Singh resigned on Thursday taking early retirement from service

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