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Ambassador Navtej Sarna gets a year's extension

New Delhi, Nov 25 (IANS) Reflecting the governments tendency of keeping faith in trusted people in key diplomatic posts, the term of Indian Ambassador to the US Navtej Sarna has been extended.

According to reliable sources, the term of Sarna, a 1980 batch Indian Foreign Service officer and who was supposed to retire November end, has been extended by a year.

He was named India’s envoy in Washington in September last year ahead of the US presidential election and after serving just eight months as Indian High Commissioner to Britain.

With Sarna as the Ambassador, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a highly successful first-time meeting with US President Donald Trump in Washington this year.

Both Sarna and his predecessor, Arun Kumar Singh, are former Indian Ambassadors to Israel, underlying the importance of a posting in Tel Aviv which is one of Washington’s closest allies.

Sarna has had a previous posting in Washington when he was Minister for Press, Information and Culture between 1998 and 2002.

Prior to his London posting, Sarna was Secretary (West) in the Ministry of External Affairs where he oversaw the successful hosting in October 2015 of the India-Africa Forum Summit that was attended by a record number of 53 African countries.

Modi was personally very happy with the organisation of the Summit and had congratulated External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for it.

It is clear Modi wanted someone in Washington he was confident would be able to steer the multi-faceted India-US relations into a new phase with a new administration.

Sarna was among the longest-serving spokespersons of the ministry between 2002 and 2008. He has also had postings in Moscow, Warsaw, Tehran, Geneva and Thimphu.

Sarna is also a prolific author of many fiction and non-fiction books, the most recent being ‘Second Thoughts: On Books, Authors and the Writerly Life’ that was released in 2015.

This is the second high-level extension this year after Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar’s term was also extended by a year. Jaishankar is set to retire in January 2018, but South Block is agog with speculation whether he would get another extension from Modi.

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