Vijay Keshav Gokhale, a 1981-batch Indian Foreign Service officer, on Monday took over as India’s Foreign Secretary from S Jaishankar. The seasoned diplomat is considered an expert on China and East Asia. Jaishankar’s term, who was given a year’s extension last year, ended on Sunday.
Notably, Gokhale is the fourth foreign secretary to have served as envoy to Bejing, underlining how significant China is for India’s foreign policy. He had played a key role in negotiations to resolve the 73-day-long Doklam standoff between Indian and Chinese Armies last year. He was India’s Ambassador to China from January 20, 2016, to October 21, 2017, before moving back to the MEA headquarters in New Delhi.
As foreign secretary, Vijay Gokhale will face multiple challenges including improving ties with countries such as Nepal, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Myanmar in India’s neighbourhood, where China has been seeking to expand its influence. It will also have to be seen whether he brings certain changes to India’s approach in dealing with Pakistan.
His earlier diplomatic assignments include postings in Hong Kong, Hanoi, Beijing and New York. He had also served as Deputy Secretary (Finance), Director (China and East Asia) and Joint Secretary (East Asia) during his stints at the MEA here.
He was High Commissioner of India to Malaysia from January, 2010, to October, 2013, Ambassador of India to the Federal Republic of Germany from October, 2013, to January, 2016, and Ambassador of India to the People’s Republic of China from January, 2016, to October, 2017.
Gokhale will have a two-year term. Under the rules, the posts of foreign secretary, defence and home secretaries, CBI and IB chiefs are for two years. Earlier this month, the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the appointment of Gokhale to the post of foreign secretary.
Before taking up the new role, Gokhale served as Secretary (Economic Relations) in the External Affairs Ministry. Gokhale’s previous diplomatic assignments include postings in Hong Kong, Hanoi, Beijing and New York. He has also served as Deputy Secretary (Finance), Director (China & East Asia) and Joint Secretary (East Asia) during his stints at the headquarters of the External Affairs Ministry.
He was High Commissioner of India to Malaysia from January 2010 to October 2013, Ambassador of India to Germany from October 2013 to January 2016 and Ambassador of India to China from January 2016 to October 2017.
Jaishankar was appointed foreign secretary in January, 2015, for two years, just a few days before his retirement. He replaced Sujata Singh, whose term was abruptly cut short by the government. A 1977-batch IFS officer, Jaishankar was given a one-year extension in January last year.
(With Agency inputs)