MEA reshuffle: Venkatesh Varma to be India’s envoy to Russia

D Bala Venkatesh Varma, a 1988 batch Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer, is set to become India’s envoy to Russia

india Updated: Aug 02, 2018 23:21 IST
Jayanth Jacob
Jayanth Jacob
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
MEA,Venkatesh Varma,India’s envoy to Russia
He will replace Pankaj Saran, who has been appointed as a deputy national security adviser.(File Photo)

Major changes in the external affairs ministry, including top ambassadorial postings, are on the cards, people familiar with the developments said. D Bala Venkatesh Varma, a 1988 batch Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer, is set to become India’s envoy to Russia.

He will replace Pankaj Saran, who has been appointed as a deputy national security adviser. Ruchi Ghanashyam, secretary (west) at the headquarters and a 1982 batch officer, is likely to be next Indian high commissioner to the UK in place of Y K Sinha.

Varma is a Russian speaker and has served the Indian embassy in Moscow as third secretary, second secretary as well as counselor (political).

An expert on disarmament issues, Varma was the first recipient in 2010 of the SK Singh Award for Excellence in the IFS for the role he played in civil nuclear deals India has signed with other countries.

Sanjay Verma, a 1990 batch officer, is set to become India’s next envoy to Spain in place of Bala Venkatesh Varma.

The people familiar with the developments said Indian envoy in Beijing, Gautam Bambawale, who is retiring soon, could get an extension.

The 1984 batch officer is a Mandarin speaker with long experience in dealing with China at a time when the reset in the ties is working as per the script.

These factors could work in Bambawale’s favour.

He served in Hong Kong and Beijing between 1985 and 1991. Bambawale then served as deputy chief of mission, besides heading East Asia desk in the ministry.

He also served as envoy to Bhutan.

India’s ambassador and permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva Amandeep Gill, a 1992 batch IFS officer, is taking a break.

Gill is joining a United Nations task force on digital cooperation as an executive director. The task force has been set up for a “safe and inclusive digital future of the world”.

But it is unclear whether the vacancy will be filled as Gill will be away only for a year.

The MEA has internally advertised for the post, the people said.

The extended term of India’s envoy to Washington, Navtej Sarna, will end in December. Harsh Vardhan Shringla, a 1984 batch officer and envoy in Bangladesh, could be one of the main choices for Washington.

Shringla has won much acclaim for his deft handling of ties with Dhaka.

He has vast experience in handling various diplomatic issues in his 33-year-old service.

Shringla will be busy ahead of crucial elections in Bangladesh as Prime Minister Narendra Modi attaches high-level importance to the ties with Dhaka.

The permanent representative to the UN, Syed Akbaruddin, is another senior diplomat likely to get a big posting.

Vijaya Singh Thakur, a 1985 batch officer, will take over as secretary (East) next month following the retirement of incumbent Preeti Saran.

First Published: Aug 02, 2018 23:21 IST