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NEW DELHI: Ambassador to France Ranjan Mathai has been appointed Foreign Secretary. He will replace Nirupama Rao, who retires by July end and is being posted as Ambassador to the U.S.
A 1974 batch officer of the Indian Foreign Service, Mr. Mathai has served in Europe, the U.S. and the Middle East, besides a spell in Sri Lanka. He has been posted at the headquarters for about seven years when he served two stints in Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka division and a brief stint at the National Defence College.
Vaiju Naravane reports from Paris:
Mr. Mathai said he felt “deeply honoured” on becoming India's top diplomat. “I feel deeply honoured, and I am fully aware of the complexity of the task that lies ahead of me. I am looking forward to what will surely be a most challenging assignment,” he told The Hindu.
A creative, out-of-the-box thinker, Mr. Mathai is likely to prove both innovative and cautious, keeping India's foreign policy and strategic interests in mind while looking for path-breaking solutions to problems that have so far remained unresolved. He is a quiet, elegant and efficient man, a fine public speaker with a sense of repartee and humour that keeps his audiences transfixed.
In his speeches, he does not deny the huge problems — poverty, poor agricultural performance, illiteracy, healthcare, lack of infrastructure, bureaucracy or corruption — that plague India. However, his message here has been that with the right effort at correcting these ills, India's democracy, with its unity in diversity, its spirit of enterprise, free press and traditions of tolerance, could become a new political model at a time when Europeans are becoming increasingly intolerant of immigrants and Islam and when protectionism is the talk of the day.
Even as a student at Pune's prestigious Fergusson College, where this correspondent was his debating partner and co-student, Mr. Mathai displayed a cool-headed maturity, taking recourse to rational discussion, while others were tempted by hyperbole and heated argument.
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