NEW DELHI: Filling two key positions in the US and choosing a new foreign secretary will be among the priorities in the realm of foreign policy for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government set to take office over the weekend.

Foreign secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra is widely expected to become the next envoy to the US within the next few months (PTI)

Foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra, who was given a six-month extension in service in March, is widely expected to become the next envoy to the US within the next few months, people familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity. The key slot in Washington has been vacant since the last ambassador, Taranjit Sandhu, retired in January.

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Deputy national security adviser Vikram Misri, an Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer of the 1989 batch who has the rare distinction of serving as private secretary to three prime ministers, is tipped to take over as foreign secretary when Kwatra moves to the US, the people said.

Misri, one of the leading China hands in the external affairs ministry whose last ambassadorial posting was in Beijing, was appointed to his position in the National Security Council Secretariat in January 2022. The people said he would be a natural fit as the foreign secretary in view of his expertise on China, which remains the foremost foreign policy challenge for India.

India’s ambassador to France, Jawed Ashraf, who served as joint secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office under both Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi and was granted a year-long extension in service that is set to end in September this year, is widely tipped to replace Misri in the National Security Council Secretariat, the people said.

The incoming government will also have to fill the post of the permanent representative of India to the United Nations (UN) in New York, which became vacant with the retirement of Ruchira Kamboj – the first woman to hold the position – at the beginning of this month.

The two frontrunners for this post are Parvathaneni Harish, an officer of the 1990 batch of the IFS and the current envoy to Germany, and BN Reddy, from the 1993 batch of the IFS and the current high commissioner to Malaysia, the people said.

Other names doing the rounds for this position are Vikram Doraiswami, a 1992 batch officer who is the high commissioner to Britain, and Naveen Srivastava, from the 1993 batch of the IFS and currently the ambassador to Nepal.

Sanjeev Singla, who has been the ambassador to Israel since July 2019, is widely tipped as the next ambassador to France, the people said. Singla, from the 1997 batch of the IFS, also served as private secretary to the prime minister during 2014-2019.

The government will also have to choose some new ministers of state for external affairs since two of the three ministers in the outgoing administration – Meenakshi Lekhi and Rajkumar Ranjan Singh – weren’t given tickets by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to contest the Lok Sabha election, while the third – former Rajya Sabha member V Muraleedharan – lost in the polls in Attingal constituency in Kerala.

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