With Beijing pressing hard to establish full-fledged diplomatic ties with Bhutan, newly appointed external affairs minister Salman Khurshid’s priority would be to send an Ambassador to Thimpu as present envoy Pavan Varma has put in his papers to try his luck in the political arena.
Pavan Varma, a 1976 batch IFS officer, is slated to demit office on December 31, 2012.
Government sources said while Indian ambassador to Syria VP Haran is the front-runner to take over the job in Thimpu, the name will be finalised in consultation with Khurshid on a priority basis, as New Delhi does not want a diplomatic vacuum in the fledgling Bhutanese democracy.
Haran has earlier served with distinction as deputy chief of Indian mission in Kathmandu during the last days of King Gyanendra and has a clear picture on Bhutan.
The new minister will also have to take a call on appointment of envoys to Permanent Mission of India to UN in New York, France and Myanmar as Hardeep Puri, Rakesh Sood and VS Sheshadri are respectively superannuating in February next year.
However, New Delhi is concerned about sending a competent envoy to Thimpu after Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao met Bhutan Premier Jigme Y Thinley for the first time on the sidelines of the UN Sustainable Development Summit at Rio last June with an aim to promote bilateral relations.
The meeting was followed by visit of Chinese Vice Foreign Minister for boundary talks with the Bhutanese government.
While the Bhutanese government had informed New Delhi about meeting with Premier Wen in June, the Indian diplomatic and intelligence establishment was caught unawares and were subsequently pulled up at the highest levels for this slip-up.
With an eye towards Chinese moves, India has already injected some R10,000 crore into Bhutan’s 10th five year plan and is building multiple economic leverages into existing close bilateral relationship.