Sujata Singh, currently envoy to Germany, will be India's next foreign secretary following an approval of her appointment by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, sending months of speculation on who will head the foreign services.
Fifty-nine-year-old Singh, a 1976 batch Indian Foreign Service officer, was a close contender for the top job along with India's ambassador to China S Jaishankar, who is a batch junior to her. His name was doing the rounds because of his excellent service record particularly as envoy to China.
Due to retire in July next year, Singh will now have a two-year extension and will succeed Ranjan Mathai who is set to retire on July 31.
Singh, who will be the third woman to head the services after Chokila Iyer and Nirupama Rao, is the daughter of T V Rajeshwar, the former Intelligence Bureau chief known to be close to the top brass of the Congress. Singh is the wife of former secretary (east) Sanjay Singh, who retired in April this year.
There were reports that she along with other diplomats who are senior to Jaishankar were contemplating resignation in case of his elevation. Finally, the Prime Minister plumped for seniority. Her name was cleared after the Prime Minister returned from his Kashmir visit last week.
Though Sujata Singh has not done any diplomatic stint in India's neighbourhood, she was undersecretary looking after Nepal from 1982-1985 before her postings in Europe including Italy and France.
Image: Sujata Singh, India's next foreign secretary