Nirupama Rao, India's new Foreign Secretary | india | Hindustan Times
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Nirupama Rao, India's new Foreign Secretary

Nirupama Rao, who has served as ambassador to China and spokesperson of the foreign ministry, takes charge as India's foreign secretary today. Rao will be India's second woman foreign secretary after Chokila Iyer, who served briefly in the post in 2001.

india Updated: Aug 01, 2009 13:11 IST

Seasoned diplomat Nirupama Rao will take over as the new Foreign Secretary from Saturday at a time when India's diplomatic relations with Pakistan are going through a critical phase.

Rao, a 1973-batch IFS officer, is the second woman to hold the post of the top diplomat after Chokila Iyer and will succeed Shivshankar Menon, who retired on Friday.

The 58-year-old diplomat, who was ambassador to China before her new assignment, will have tenure of 17 months as the top foreign ministry official.

Prior to her stint in China, she has served in various key positions, including India's High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and was the first woman spokesperson of the External Affairs Ministry.

Earlier, she had served in the Indian Missions in Washington and Moscow, besides having a stint in the Ministry of External Affairs as Joint Secretary (East Asia).

Rao is assuming charge at a time when India's relations with Pakistan are going through testing times in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.

Besides Pakistan, dealing with other nations of the "turbulent" neighbourhood would be among the foremost challenges for Rao in her new position.

Menon, a 1972-batch IFS officer, demitted office after an eventful stint of two years and ten months whose highlight was the Indo-US civil nuclear deal.

Born in Kerala on December 6, 1950, Rao holds a Masters Degree in English Literature from Marathwada University. Her early education took place in cities across the country, including Bangalore, Pune, Lucknow and Coonoor (Tamil Nadu).

She is an accomplished singer in her own right and has a penchant for classical music (Hindustani and Carnatic) besides theatre and writing.

Her first book of poems 'Rain Rising' was published in India in 2004. It was also released in Sri Lanka where she was posted from 2004 to 2006.