The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Foreign office voice switch

New Delhi, Sept. 26: Navtej Sarna is likely to replace Nirupama Rao as the new spokesperson of the foreign ministry and the joint secretary of the external publicity division.

The exact day the formal announcement will be made is not known, but indications suggest that Rao will be made additional secretary in the next few days. Once she is promoted, Rao will move out of her present job.

Rao’s file, along with that of her batchmates, is at present with the Prime Minister’s Office. A final decision on the promotion will be taken shortly.

Sarna, a 1980 batch Indian Foreign Service officer, had earlier served in the external publicity division. Till recently in India’s embassy in Washington, he was looking after media and publicity.

Sarna not only seems to be the frontrunner, but also appears to be South Block’s choice for the high-profile job.

Rao, a 1973 batch diplomat, took over from Raminder Singh Jassal in May last year.

Her stint as the spokesperson of the external affairs ministry and head of external publicity division was almost a baptism by fire as the Agra summit between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf was one of her first major assignments.

Because of her seniority, she may now have to move out of her present job.

There was a view that the spokesperson’s job should be separated from that of the joint secretary in the external publicity division.

There was speculation that Gautam Mukhopadhyay may then be brought in along with Sarna to head the external publicity division while the latter would be made the spokesperson.

But the proposal seems to have been shelved for the time being and Mukhopadhyay has since joined the ministry of defence as the foreign ministry’s representative there.

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