Challenges that await new Foreign Secretary Vijay GokhaleLast updated on Jan 29, 2018, 02:44 pm
Seasoned diplomat Vijay Keshav Gokhale took charge as the new foreign secretary today, a day after his predecessor S Jaishankar demitted office.
Gokhale is widely credited with leading delicate but intense diplomatic negotiations with Beijing during the 70-day Doklam standoff.
But he has a few challenges to overcome. Will he be successful and help the Modi government come to power a second time?
A brief look at Gokhale's years of expertise
Gokhale, a Delhi University alumnus, is known as a "traditionalist" diplomat bound by rules who "works under the radar."
He has served in New York, Hong Kong and Hanoi. He was High Commissioner to Malaysia, ambassador to Germany and China.
As MEA's East India Division head, he dealt with China, NKorea, SKorea, Japan and Mongolia.
He was last serving as secretary, economic relations, MEA.
Maintaining cordial relations with Beijing while trying to expand influence
India's ties with China has suffered in recent times, what with Beijing's blockage of New Delhi's attempt to get Pakistan-based militants listed under the UN Sanctions List, and obstructing India's NSG membership.
India was the only major country to refrain from China's one-road-one-belt initiative.
As both countries try to expand their influence, Gokhale will have to ensure bilateral ties go beyond airing differences.
Improving ties with neighbors and the Gulf
New Delhi's relations with other neighbors aren't ideal either. There's constant tension with Pakistan, and a series of missteps has hit ties with Nepal.
Bhutan is gearing up for crucial elections next year.
Though Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka are friendly, Maldives is building connections with China.
Ties with Gulf countries are stable too, but India has to make sure the momentum remains strong.
Balancing varied interests in the wake of US' recent unpredictability
Meanwhile, since Donald Trump's arrival, the US has irked many nations with controversial decisions, including withdrawing from the Paris deal and recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Given the current shaky geopolitics, India, an aspiring UNSC member, has to maintain balance among varied global interests.
Gokhale's work has the potential to make or break NDA
Meanwhile, the Modi government is gearing up for fresh elections next year, and foreign policy achievements can be a major poll plank.
Though political leadership decides the foreign policy, the foreign secretary plays an important role in implementation, management of diplomats, and advising political leaders.
How Gokhale conducts affairs in the ministry will impact what the government can present to the electorate.