Leela K Ponappa, a career diplomat who retired as India’s envoy to The Netherlands in June last year, has been appointed as Deputy National Security Adviser.
A 1970-batch IFS officer, Ponappa, who has also served as Ambassador to Thailand, will additionally hold the post of Secretary in the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS), the country's leading strategic policy - making group, official sources confirmed on Thursday.
Several key career diplomats were in the reckoning for the crucial post. Unlike her predecessors on the job, Vijay Nambiar and Satish Chandra, also IFS officers who had served in Pakistan and China before becoming Deputy NSA, Ponappa's area of expertise, according to colleagues, is South Asia. Ponappa, 61, headed the SAARC and BSM (Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives) divisions in the Ministry of External Affairs.
The Prime Minister heads the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, which cleared Ponappa’s appointment for a two-year tenure. She is the first Deputy NSA appointed in Congress-led UPA Government. Ponappa, the first woman to be appointed to the post, will report to National Security Adviser MK Narayanan.
When contacted, Ponappa claimed she had no official intimation about her appointment and could not comment. The ACC also cleared the appointment of Christy L Fernandez, as the new Tourism Secretary in place of Ashok Kumar Mishra, who is due to retire by end of this month.
Fernandez, an officer from the 1973 batch of the IAS, belongs to the Gujarat cadre. She is at present Additional Secretary in the Department of Commerce.