Harsh Vardhan Shringla takes charge as new foreign secretary


File photo: Harsh Vardhan Shringla

File photo: Harsh Vardhan Shringla

Seasoned diplomat Harsh Vardhan Shringla, who last served as India’s envoy to the US, took charge as new foreign secretary on Wednesday for a fixed two-year term, succeeding Vijay Gokhale.

His assuming charge of the high-profile post comes at a time when India is facing a plethora of foreign policy challenges including ramping up of diplomatic outreach in the wake of criticism by some countries and global institutions of the new citizenship law.

India is also facing an increasingly assertive Trump administration and China’s attempt to expand its military and economic influence in the region.

Speaking to reporters ahead of taking the charge, Shringla, a 1984-batch officer of the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), said he is very clear about the fact that foreign service is a public service and its every effort should be dedicated to contributing towards the nation in the form of its security and prosperity through external engagements.

“I am as committed to the ministry’s role in nation-building as I was almost 36 years ago when I entered these portals as a young professional. I look forward to functioning under the guidance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, our political leadership and with the support and cooperation of my colleagues both within the ministry and outside,” the 57-year-old diplomat said.

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.

Shringla had played an important role in successful hosting of the “Howdy Modi” event in Houston in September where US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Modi jointly addressed the Indian diaspora.

“I am conscious of the fact that I am stepping into the shoes of my illustrious stalwarts and seniors who have upheld the highest standards of professionalism and integrity to their work. In this context, my two immediate predecessors come to mind — Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale who set impeccably high standards, and Dr Jaishankar who we know is one of the leading authorities on foreign policy in India and anywhere in the world,” Shringla said.

In the course of a diplomatic career spanning 35 years, Shringla has held a variety of positions in New Delhi and abroad and is considered an expert on India’s neighbourhood.

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 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.