Seasoned diplomat Harsh Vardhan Shringla was on Monday appointed as the new foreign secretary for a two-year fixed term, succeeding Vijay Gokhale.
Shringla, a 1984 batch officer of the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), is considered an expert on India’s neighbourhood and is currently serving as envoy to the US.
His appointment comes at a time when India is facing a plethora of foreign policy challenges including dealing with an increasingly assertive Trump administration and China’s attempt to expand its military and economic influence in the region.
As foreign secretary, Shringla’s immediate task is expected to be ramping up of diplomatic outreach in the wake of criticism by several countries and global institutions of India’s new citizenship law.
The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet has approved the appointment of Shringla as the new foreign secretary, a government order said, adding he will assume the new role on January 29 after incumbent Vijay Gokhale completes his tenure.
The government did not follow the seniority principle in appointing Shringla to the top post. Indian High Commissioner to the UK Ruchi Ghanshyam, a 1982 batch IFS officer, was also in contention for the post.
In the course of a diplomatic career spanning 35 years, Shringla has held a variety of positions in New Delhi and abroad.
He has served as High Commissioner of India to Bangladesh and Ambassador of India to Thailand. He has also served in France, Vietnam, Israel and South Africa.
In the headquarters of the Ministry of External Affairs here, Shringla served as Joint Secretary looking after India’s ties with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Maldives.
He has also headed the United Nations Political and SAARC divisions in the ministry.
Earlier, he served as director of the northern division dealing with Nepal and Bhutan.
Shringla played an important role in successful hosting of the “Howdy Modi” event in Houston in September where US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi jointly addressed the Indian diaspora.
Shringla is a graduate from prestigious St. Stephen’s College of Delhi University.
He has also worked in the corporate and public sectors prior to joining the Indian Foreign Service.
He has pursued courses and published papers on conflict prevention, economic diplomacy, the Indian diaspora and India-Bangladesh relations.