New Delhi: In a major diplomatic reshuffle, India has decided to rejig some of the key diplomatic locations within the neighbourhood and beyond, even as it gears up to face a changed strategic world order after the coronavirus pandemic. New Delhi will soon be sending some of its bright diplomats Vikram Doraiswami, Rudrendra Tandon and Gourangalal Das to Dhaka, Kabul and Taipei, respectively, ThePrint has learnt.
A 1992-batch IFS officer, Doraiswami is currently posted as Additional Secretary, looking after Bangladesh and Myanmar as well as international conferences and global organisations. He was also looking after the Indo-Pacific affairs prior to this.
Doraiswami, believed to be a favourite of External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, has served as India’s Ambassador to South Korea until 2018. He was also joint secretary of the Americas division at the external affairs ministry from 2012 till 2014, which also overlapped with Jaishankar’s tenure in the US as Indian envoy there.
Fluent in Mandarin, French and Urdu, Doraiswami has also been India’s Ambassador to Tashkent.
As India’s new envoy to Dhaka, Doraiswami will be playing a critical role in maintaining a robust presence of India there while wading away the threat of growing Chinese influence, sources told ThePrint.
According to the sources, the “sudden” changes in some of these key locations are being planned keeping in mind India’s rising tensions with China after the coronavirus pandemic, which is expected to bring massive changes in the global world order. India is also worried about Pakistan’s rapid inroads in Bangladesh.
As India’s new High Commissioner to Dhaka, Doraiswami will now be succeeding Riva Ganguly Das, who is coming back as Secretary (East) at the Ministry of External Affairs, replacing Vijay Thakur Singh, who is to retire in September.
Das will be facing the humongous challenge of bringing India’s relationship with ASEAN back to track in a post-Covid world.
Bangladesh’s strategic importance for India
Bangladesh is turning out to be a key location for the Indian diplomats considering its strategic importance for New Delhi. At present, despite recent turmoil in the relationship owing to the Citizenship Amendment Act passed last year, Dhaka can be considered one of India’s closest allies in the neighbourhood, which is fast coming under the strategic grip of Beijing.
Incumbent Foreign Secretary Harsh V. Shringla had also served as India’s envoy to Dhaka prior to becoming Indian Ambassador to the US. Shringla’s tenure there is still regarded with high esteem by the Sheikh Hasina government.
Bangladesh is the only neighbour at present with whom India has been able to settle the land boundary agreement (in 2015), even as both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Hasina continue to share a friendly rapport with each other.
Of late, India’s ties with Nepal have also reached historic lows. In May, Nepal released a new political map showing the disputed regions of Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura as part of its territory and subsequently amended the Constitution.
Meanwhile, according to sources, India is also sending Rudrendra Tandon, its current envoy to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to Kabul, replacing incumbent Vinay Kumar.
This comes at a critical time when the US is planning to exit Afghanistan after the implementation of a so-called peace pact with the Taliban. Tandon comes with a rich experience of the region as he headed the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran, also called the PAI division, as joint secretary.
A 1994-batch IFS officer, Tandon was also in charge of political issues at the UN.
New Director-General at the India-Taipei Association
Meanwhile, in a significant move, New Delhi is also sending Gourangalal Das as India’s new Director-General at the India-Taipei Association, which works as a diplomatic front to Taiwan, the sources confirmed.
Since India follows the One-China policy, it cannot post an ambassador to that country.
Das, trained in Mandarin, has gained considerable reputation due to his work in bringing the Trump administration closer to the Modi government during Shringla’s stint there as Indian envoy to the US.
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