Arun Mohanty in Moscow
Veteran diplomat Krishnan Raghunath has taken over as India's new ambassador to Russia.
Raghunath, a former foreign secretary, took over from Satinder Kumar Lamba, who retired from the Indian Foreign Service with the completion of his Moscow tenure.
Senior diplomats and officials from the Indian embassy and the Russian foreign ministry received him at Sheremetevo International Airport.
Raghunath joined office immediately upon arrival and met Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Orjhenikidge, head of the protocol division of the Russian foreign ministry, and Vladimir Karpov, deputy director of the Third Asia division of the foreign ministry, on his first day in office on Friday.
But Raghunath is no stranger to Moscow. He was political counsellor at the Indian embassy from February 1978 to April 1979. He has handled sensitive political ties between the two nations at a time when the Congress, a favourite of the erstwhile Soviet government and the people, lost power in New Delhi for the first time after Independence to a coalition that was initially averse to maintaining close ties with Moscow.
Raghunath, considered an old Russia hand, has contributed significantly to shaping Indo-Russian relations as foreign secretary of India from July 1997 to November 1999. He visited Moscow many times during that period to take part in important Indo-Russian consultations and negotiations.
Raghunath also served as India's ambassador to the Philippines, high commissioner for Nigeria and Bangladesh, and secretary (east) in the external affairs ministry.
He is the fourth Indian ambassador to Moscow after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and has been given the assignment because of his vast experience in and expertise on Russia.
The first major event in bilateral relations during Raghunath's diplomatic assignment will be Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's visit to Russia slated for early November.
Indo-Asian News Service
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