BJP defends foreign secy replacement, says no political motive

  • Agencies, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jan 29, 2015 22:30 IST

The BJP on Thursday defended the government's move to appoint S Jaishankar as the foreign secretary and ruled out any political motive saying the Centre had acted well within its right to decide on appointment of officers.

Jaishankar's appointment had snowballed into a controversy with the Congress calling the timing of his appointment "questionable".

"I do not see any reason for hue and cry. A government is within its rights to decide how it would like to appoint what officers and with what responsibilities. And this is not the first time... Preceding governments have taken (such) decisions," BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli said.

"I do not see any reason that anyone can attribute any political motives. This is the right of the government," Kohli said.

The Congress on Thursday raised questions on the government's decision to remove Singh late on Wednesday night from the crucial post eight months before her tenure was to end and replace her with Jaishankar, India's ambassador to the US.

"Why did the Modi government wait till US President Barack Obama's visit to make the appointment?" NDTV quoted senior Congress leader Manish Tewari as saying.

Taking on the Congress, the BJP leader said, "The Congress party spokesperson can try to do politics or anything. In any case it does not appear that they are inspired by their leadership. That's why their constant method seems to be trying to raise a hue and cry on issues also where there is no scope to do so."

Kohli said there cannot be a political motive to everything.

"How can you mix it with the appointment of the foreign secretary? A government is within its rights to appoint any officer and this has been done by preceding governments too," he said.

BJP leader Subramanian Swamy too said Congress had no right to talk about the issue since the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi had dismissed his foreign secretary AP Venkateswaran during a press conference.

Jaishankar replaced Singh whose tenure was abruptly "curtailed" by the government eight months ahead of her retirement. Singh is a batch senior to Jaishankar, who joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1977, and was removed just a day after Obama left India.

CNN-IBN quoted unnamed sources as saying that external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj was not consulted before the replacement and was not in favour of "curtailing" Singh's tenure.

The sacking of Singh is one of the reasons of tussle between Swaraj and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, the news channel added.

Jaishankar took charge on Thursday morning but refused to answer questions on the controversy over his appointment.

"Government's priorities are my priorities," said Jaishankar describing his new position as an "honour and a big responsibility".

Singh was not present when Jaishankar took charge at the South Block office. He will have a two-year tenure as per rules.

The decision to appoint Jaishankar, who played a key role during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the US in September and Obama's just concluded visit in New Delhi, was taken by the Appointments Committee of the cabinet chaired by Modi.

Jaishankar, son of late K Subrahmanyam, one of India's leading strategic analysts, was also a key member of the Indian team which negotiated the landmark Indo-US nuclear deal.

The 60-year old diplomat had also been posted as ambassador to China, Singapore and Czech Republic.

Singh had taken over as the third woman foreign secretary in August, 2013 and had eight more months to serve. She is the first foreign secretary to be removed unceremoniously after Rajiv Gandhi sacked Venkateswaran in 1987.

(With PTI inputs)

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