Vijay Gokhale to succeed S Jaishankar as foreign secretary: Veteran diplomat's China expertise will be key

Diplomat Vijay Keshav Gokhale has been appointed as the next Foreign Secretary of India. Gokhale will be succeeding S Jaishankar, who will be demitting office on 28 January, 2018.

The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had approved Gokhale's appointment on Monday. The diplomat, who is currently secretary (economic relations) in the Ministry of External Affairs, will serve a two-year term.

In his three-decade-long career, Gokhale has served in Germany, Hong Kong, Vietnam, United States and China.

Born in January 1959, Gokhale completed his MA in History from University of Delhi before joining the Indian Foreign Service in 1981.

A China expert

Like Jaishankar, Gokhale is perhaps known for being one of the few China experts in the Ministry of External Affairs. According to The Economic Times, Gokhale has the rare distinction of having served as India's representative in People's Republic of China as well as Republic of China (Taiwan).

After serving in Hong Kong in his early days as a diplomat, Gokhale returned to China as India's envoy in 2016.

Gokhale served as India's Ambassador to China between January 2016 to October 2017. The veteran diplomat rose to prominence in his final ambassadorial assignment. It was during his 21-month tenure in China that the Doka La standoff took place.

Incoming Foreign Secretary of India Vijay Gokhale. Twitter @thetribunechd

Incoming Foreign Secretary of India Vijay Gokhale. Twitter @thetribunechd

As noted by Deccan Herald, Gokhale played his role efficiently, co-ordinating with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Jaishankar to end the deadlock with China.

The report noted that as India's representative in Beijing, Gokhale stood his ground during the several rounds of negotiations with the Chinese.

According to an opinion piece in The Print, Gokhale, along with Jaishankar and current Indian envoy to China Gautam Bambawale, is leading the charge to fundamentally change India's policy towards China.

"In their books, it was only a matter of time because the change was fundamental. And so, India must articulate its positions clearly, leaving nothing to ambiguity or chance," the article noted.

Given his successful China stint, there were already reports of him taking over from Jaishankar. Gokhale is also currently the senior-most diplomat after Jaishankar.

Other diplomatic experience

Other than China, Gokhale has also served as India's ambassador to Malaysia between 2010 and 2013. After his stint at Kuala Lumpur, Gokhale replaced Sujatha Singh — who took over as the foreign secretary — as India's top diplomat in Berlin. He continued to be India's ambassador to Germany till January 2016.

At the MEA

Gokhale, a Mandarin speaker, has also served in the Ministry of External Affairs. He has served as Deputy Secretary (Finance), Director (China and East Asia) and Joint Secretary (East Asia). In the latter two assignments too, Gokhale had to deal with China and its neighbouring countries.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Jan 02, 2018 11:09:00 IST

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