Harsh Vardhan Shringla, India’s top diplomat made it to the headlines last year after organising and planning Prime Minister Modi’s United States visit in an adroit manner. He was India’s ambassador to the US at that point of time.
Ahead of taking charge, the 57-year-old diplomat said, “I am as committed to the ministry’s role in nation-building as I was almost 36 years ago when I entered these portals as a young professional. I look forward to functioning under the guidance of the Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) and the External Affairs Minister (S Jaishankar), our political leadership and with the support and cooperation of my colleagues both within the ministry and outside.”
Now, Shringla has risen to the top of the Foreign Office even as he assumed charge as India’s Foreign Secretary.
Shringla, who joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1984, was the youngest in his batch, and is regarded highly by his colleagues, seniors and juniors who describe him as “no-nonsense” and “sharp.”
Now, having assumed charge of the critical post, he is already bracing for the upcoming challenges and has also pronounced his focus areas.
He has listed boosting India’s economic ties, building synergies with major global powers and seeking an “undifferentiated” and “unambiguous” approach towards tackling the menace of terrorism, as his priority areas.
Stressing upon his priority areas, Shringla has said that he will work “with India’s many partners in the international system—in enhancing developmental and economic linkages, as well as connectivity with our neighbours; building synergies with major powers; seeking a shared, undifferentiated and unambiguous approach to terrorism and the threat it poses to free societies; and sustaining the gains of a rules-based multilateral order”.
A look at Shringla’s resume reveals his rich experience that could come in handy when Shringla would pursue his topmost priorities as India’s Foreign Secretary. Having graduated from St. Stephen’s College of the Delhi University, he had worked for corporates and state-run firms before joining the Foreign Services.
He has pursued courses and published papers on economic diplomacy- something that will come in handy even as he pursues the goal of deepening India’s economic ties with other powers.
In his career spanning over three decades, Shringla has also served at several key levels. He was India’s High Commissioner to Bangladesh and during his tenure, he oversaw the steadying and consolidation of Indo-Bangladesh relations. It was also during his tenure as the Joint Secretary (Director General) responsible for Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Myanmar that India and Bangladesh signed the historic protocol to implement the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement between the two countries.
It was during his tenure as the Joint Secretary for Sri Lanka that Shringla oversaw the completion of a housing project in Sri Lanka’s Civil War ravaged Tamil areas. This was followed by a highly successful tenure as the High Commissioner to Bangladesh when he delivered critical assistance to the country, and today New Delhi-Dhaka relations have become a major success story when it comes to Modi government’s neighbourhood diplomacy.
In his illustrious career, Shringla also held the post of Ambassador of India to Thailand, apart from serving in France, Vietnam, Israel and South Africa.
The newly-appointed Foreign Secretary has also served at several multilateral and supranational forums. He held key posts in UNESCO and to India’s mission to the UN.
His stint as India’s Ambassador to the United States is obviously remembered distinctly. It was during PM Modi’s visit to the US last year that Shringla’s organisational skills and capabilities had come to the fore. The “Howdy Modi” event at Houston, among several such important events, had turned out to be a grand success.
After assuming charge as the Foreign Secretary, managing US President Donald Trump’s India visit next month would be at the top of Shringla’s to-do list. Having already managed PM Modi’s visit last year, it shouldn’t be much of a task for the newly appointed Foreign Secretary.
With his extensive experience and skills, Harsh Vardhan Shringla thus seems like just the man that India needed at the top of its Foreign Office.