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Indian Ambassador to Russia PS Raghavan and former diplomat Hardeep Singh Puri are in contention to be appointed as personal emissary or “sherpa” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the G-20 summit in Brisbane, Australia on November 15-16.
Sherpa and sous sherpa, normally a joint secretary-level officer from the ministry of external affairs (MEA), are representatives of the head of government who prepare the path for summit-level talks by conducting negotiations on the PM’s behalf. Then deputy chairman of the now defunct planning commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, was the sherpa for former PM Manmohan Singh for the last G-20 summit in Russia and Dinesh Bhatia, an MEA joint secretary, a sous Sherpa.
“The sherpa hammers out agreements with other sherpas for the head of state to sign. He is a confidante of the head of state with powers to accept or reject an agreement on behalf of the PM,” said a senior official.
While the final decision on the sherpa is still to be taken by Modi, the top contender for the job is Raghavan, a 1979-batch foreign service officer, who is serving a two-year term ending December 2015 as ambassador to Russia in Moscow. A quiet and competent officer, Raghavan served as joint secretary looking after MEA in former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee’s office. Before being posted to Russia, Raghavan was responsible for the execution of several developmental projects by India in the neighbourhood and in various parts of the world.
The other candidate for the job is HS Puri, a distinguished former diplomat, who is now a BJP spokesman after joining the party in January 2014. Puri retired as Indian permanent representative to UN after serving for four years. He has served in various capacities in Brazil, Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom.