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Jaishankar named new envoy to US

S. Jaishankar

New Delhi, Sep 13 (IANS) S. Jaishankar, India’s envoy to China, has been named the new ambassador to the US while his successor in Beijing will be Ashok K. Kantha, it was announced here.

The announcement of the new envoys comes ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to both the countries.

Jaishankar is to succeed Nirupama Rao, whose ambassadorial tenure in Washington is coming to an end. Ashok Kantha is currently Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). Both Jaishankar and Ashok Kantha are Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officers of the 1977 batch.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is travel to Washington later this month where he is expected to hold bilateral talks with President Barack Obama. He will go to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly session.

The prime minister is also to visit China in the third week of October.

Both newly appointed ambassadors in key world capitals are to take over their new assignments shortly, the ministry said.

Jaishankar’s name was earlier doing the rounds as the most likely career diplomat to succeed Ranjan Mathai as the foreign secretary. However, the government went in for senior most ministry official Sujatha Singh in making the key appointment.

Jaishankar, who served as Joint Secretary (Americas) in the ministry 2004-2007, is known to be well aware of the intricacies of India-US relations and takes over at a time when bilateral ties are believed to be at a low.

The son of leading strategic affairs analyst late K. Subrahmanyam, Jaishankar also played a key role in smoothing tensions between India and China during the 20-day stand-off following incursion by Chinese troops in Ladakh in April this year.

Ashok Kantha, an ace diplomat, has previously served as Indian high Commissioner to Sri Lanka. He is the son-in-law of former external affairs minister and senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha.

S.Raghavan, Special Secretary in the external affairs ministry, has been named India’s new ambassador to Russia. There is also speculation that former foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai could be India’s next High Commissioner to Britain.

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