As the race for party nominations for the White House enters a crucial stretch, the race for the most coveted post in the Indian foreign policy establishment, India’s ambassador to the United States, is almost sealed, with High Commissioner to Pakistan Satyabrata Pal emerging as the frontrunner.
According to sources, Pal has overtaken the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on the nuclear deal and former Foreign Secretary, Shyam Saran in the stakes for the job of New Delhi’s envoy to Washington. The post of India’s envoy to the US has traditionally been given to a high profile political appointee, beginning with Asaf Ali in 1947, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit in 1948, legal luminaries Nani Palkhivala in 1977 and Sidharta Shankar Ray in 1992, and current President of the ICCR Karan Singh, in 1989. The present envoy, Ronen Sen, was appointed in 2004, after his retirement from service.
Pal, a career Indian Foreign Service officer from the 1972 batch (like Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon), will, if appointed, be the first serving officer to head the Indian mission in several decades. Pal, grandson of Radha Binod Pal, the judge who gave the dissenting judgement in the Japanese war crimes trial, is regarded highly as a “very fine officer” who does not lobby for positions.
Saran, considered by many including the UPA government’s Left allies as “too close to the US” because he was involved helping to formulate the civilian nuclear deal with the US, had been viewed as the ideal choice to replace Ronen Sen.