Congress, BJP spar over change of foreign secretary

New Delhi, Jan 29 (IANS) The Congress Thursday questioned the abrupt replacement of foreign secretary Sujatha Singh before the ending of her tenure and demanded that the government explain the reasons for the change — but the ruling BJP retorted it was well within the government’s rights to decide on appointments.

Congress leader Manish Tewari wondered if the decision was a belated result of the stern stand taken by Sujatha Singh on the Devyani Khobragade issue.
“Foreign secretary is head of the foreign service… before you start gerrymandering with seniority and fixed tenure, you need to very categorically explain as to what is the reason for doing so,” Tewari told IANS.
“The decision, coming as it does two days after the US president’s visit… is there a linkage between the stand which Sujatha Singh took on the Devyani matter and this a belated retribution,” he asked.
“After all, if the government was unhappy with the former foreign secretary, then they could have asked her to go earlier. Or did something happen during the US president’s visit…
“If not, is there a linkage between the unceremonious sacking and the Devyani issue. Everyone is aware there are a lot of disgruntled people because the former foreign secretary took a calibrated position to protect a young officer prosecuted by the US authorities,” he said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), however, said it was the government’s prerogative to decide on appointments.
“I don’t see any reason for the hue and cry. A government is within its rights to decide how it would like to appoint what officers and with what responsibilities. And this is not the first time… Preceding governments have taken (such) decisions,” BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli said.
Tewari, however, asserted that an explanation was needed.
“It may be the government’s right to decide, but if the government decides to curtail a fixed tenure, it must provide an explanation,” he said.
Sujatha Singh assumed office in August 2013 and was due to retire in August this year. She was the country’s third woman foreign secretary.
The appointments committee of the Cabinet, in a decision Wednesday, decided to “curtail the tenure” of Sujatha Singh “with immediate effect” and replace her with S. Jaishankar, currently the ambassador to the US. he took over Thursday.
Kohli, meanwhile, said there is no political motive behind the appointment.
“I do not see any reason that anyone can attribute any political motives. This is the right of the government,” he said.
“The Congress party spokesperson can try to do politics or anything. In any case, it does not appear that they are inspired by their leadership. That’s why their constant method seems to be trying to raise a hue and cry on issues also where there is no scope to do so,” he said.