20 January, 2021

First Name Terms

India's new foreign secretary may have surprised his detractors. But how much can he do in eight months?

T. Narayan
First Name Terms
On the morning of November 19, you had to only step into the C1/6 residence of Shashank at the Lodhi Gardens to know something important had happened: his Maltese puppy Cheeku was tearing in and out of the house, greeting a stream of visitors who had come to felicitate the master of the house. The phone was constantly ringing: there was Arun Shourie on the line, then Suresh Prabhu. And each time Shashank took the call, he said effusively, "Thank you, thank you." You, obviously, knew what the fuss was all about: the evening before Shashank had been designated as the new foreign secretary, defying rumours of an extension to the current incumbent, Kanwal Sibal, now to retire as per schedule by November-end.

In a world where appreciation and allegiance change depending on who is writing the bureaucrat's confidential report, it wasn't surprising then to spot a few of Shashank's detractors arrive at his house with bouquets. And detractors he had quite a handful, many of whom were convinced that the coveted post wasn't to be his. For months there were rumours that Sibal would...


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