Mukherjee assumes charge at MEA | india | Hindustan Times
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Mukherjee assumes charge at MEA

india Updated: Oct 25, 2006 19:29 IST
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Fully conscious of diplomatic nuances that go with his post, newly-appointed External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday steered clear of any controversies as he assumed charge in the first-floor office room in South Block he had vacated ten years ago.

The room had been lying vacant for almost a year after Natwar Singh quit as EAM last November, after being named in the Volcker oil-for-food controversy.

Clad in a black bandhgala suit, Mukherjee responded to a few queries from the mass of journalists gathered to welcome him in, along with a host of senior officials.

His priority, he said, was to ensure peace in the neighbourhood and to help create conditions that would allow India to sustain a growth rate of between nine and ten per cent annually.

"We cannot alter our neighbours," he said. "As we cannot alter our neighbours, it is desirable to coexist and live with our neighbours in peace, and create tension-free situation on our borders with our neighbours," Mukherjee said, responding to questions on Pakistan's role in terrorist attacks within India.

A few hours into his new job, Mukherjee received messages of greeting from Bhutan's monarch, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and from Bangladesh's Foreign Minister, Morshed Khan.

Maintaining "peace and tranquility in the region as well as other parts of the world" was "most important" to ensure that India succeeds in its ambition of achieving sustained high economic growth of 9-10 per cent and above.

To achieve high growth rates, he would lay renewed emphasis on economic diplomacy.

"For attaining the high economic growth, India will require investments and access to state-of-the-art technology," Mukherjee said.

Responding to queries about evidence of Pakistan's involvement in the Mumbai serial blasts, gathered by India, Mukherjee said, "our law enforcement agencies have gathered certain evidence, and it will be shared with Pakistan."

Among his earliest tasks will be to evolve a credible joint mechanism against terror with Pakistan, the outline of which is likely to be ready before Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan arrives in New Delhi for Foreign Secretary-level talks on November 13 and 14.

After which Mukherjee, along with his counterpart Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, will review the bilateral composite dialogue process and decide on the way ahead.

Mukherjee was given another formal welcome by the IFS Association in the evening, at which officials highlighted the need for greater transparency in intra-ministry appointments, to help improve morale in the service.

There has been considerable resentment among senior officers, particularly those superseded by Shivshankar Menon's appointment as Foreign Secretary.

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