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New foreign office boss on radar

New Delhi, June 19: A search to find a replacement for foreign secretary Shyam Saran has narrowed down to Shiv Shankar Menon, India’s high commissioner in Pakistan.

The government has also decided to extend tenures of three key envoys by one year ' India’s high commissioner in the UK Kamlesh Sharma; ambassador to the US Ronen Sen; and ambassador to Russia Kanwal Sibal.

The tenure of the three envoys was coming to end this autumn. A shuffle was on the cards when Saran retires in September. However, the government has chosen continuity over change on the envoys.

Apparently, the process is also on for giving a year’s extension to Hormis Tharakan as the chief of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the external intelligence agency.

Tharakan was director-general of police in Kerala when he was asked to head RAW when only six months left for his retirement. He was later asked to continue for two more years.

In September 2005, four key posts ' RAW chief, home secretary, defence secretary and Intelligence Bureau director ' were given a fixed term of two years. Before that, only the cabinet secretary and the CBI director had fixed terms.

A move is on in the government to offer another assignment to Saran after his retirement. Saran, who played a key role in shaping the Indo-US nuclear deal, could join as diplomatic adviser in the Prime Minister’s Office.

A debate is raging in the ministry of external affairs whether the PMO should have an adviser on foreign affairs. Those in favour of the position feel that it is required in the absence of a full-time foreign minister. However, opponents argue that it will curtail the foreign secretary’s role.

If the post is created, the diplomatic adviser will report to the national security adviser, who is the principle interlocutor on border talks with China and holds substantial powers on strategic issues.

In the foreign office, if Menon is picked for the top post, he will supersede officers like secretary (east) Rajiv Sikri and secretary (west) Shashi Tripathi.

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