The search for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s private secretary from the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) has now widened with the PMO keen on a director-level officer for the post.
The new PS will also have to be proficient in Hindi, sources said. The current IFS PS to the PM, Vikram Misri, is a joint secretary-rank official, who has been posted as India’s next ambassador to Spain.
The external affairs ministry (MEA) had proposed the names of three joint secretaries for the post — Santosh Jha, joint secretary (administration), Gopal Baglay (India’s deputy high commissioner to Islamabad) and Vinay Mohan Kwatra, joint secretary in charge of counter-terrorism.
“It’s like reverting to the traditional practice of choosing a director-level officer for the PS post,” said a senior government official. Misri belongs to the 1989 batch of Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and is the senior-most MEA official currently serving the PMO.
He had also served as director to Pranab Mukherjee when he was external affairs minister. Misri has a rare distinction of serving three PMs as private secretary, IK Gujral, Manmohan Singh and now Narendra Modi.
Jawed Ashraf, another senior MEA official of the 1991 batch of IFS is a joint secretary in the PMO and is likely to stay on.
Sources said many names are being considered including Munu Mahawar, who is already a director in the PMO. Decks have been cleared for Bharat Lal, Gujarat’s resident commissioner in the capital for the past four years, to join the PMO as a joint secretary.
Lal belongs to IFS and it is rare for a foreign service official to be holding a senior position in the PMO, said sources. AK Sharma, a 1988 batch IAS officer and another joint secretary in the PMO is also from Gujarat cadre.