The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sen scent for US post

New Delhi, June 11: The Manmohan Singh government appears to have finalised the names of envoys to the US, UK and Russia.

Sources said Ronen Sen, who retired from the foreign service two months ago, is likely to be sent to Washington. Another retired diplomat, Kamlesh Sharma, who was earlier in the permanent mission at the UN in New York, is being considered for London.

Former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal seems to be the choice for Moscow, manned by K. Raghunath now.

The high commissioner in Sri Lanka, Nirupam Sen, among the dozen-odd officers ignored while appointing Shyam Saran the foreign secretary yesterday, is likely to be sent to the permanent mission at the UN.

Former foreign ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao is tipped for Colombo.

Final seals are yet to be put on the names but are expected shortly. Even after finalising the candidates, the government has to get the names approved by the President and then by the host countries.

The ambassador’s post in Washington has been lying vacant since March this year after Lalit Mansingh’s term ended. London has not had an envoy for two months.

Ronen Sen’s choice as Delhi’s man in Washington confirms the proclaimed importance the government attaches to maintaining the upswing in Indo-US relations.

He was a key man in the Rajiv Gandhi government, wielding influence from the Prime Minister’s Office at a relatively young age, given the standards of Indian bureaucracy. His proven loyalty at the time has not been forgotten, it would appear.

Sibal, who retired as foreign secretary in October last year, had impressed many with his leadership qualities and efficient running of the ministry. The fact that he is being considered for Moscow proves that appreciation for his skills cuts across political divides.

Sens are obviously in high demand. As the high commissioner in Sri Lanka, Nirupam Sen has succeeded in strengthening ties between the two countries, skillfully maintaining India’s relevance to the peace talks with the Tamil Tigers without getting dragged into the negotiations directly.

It may have bothered key players in Delhi that, despite his record and seniority to Saran, he was ignored for the foreign secretary’s post. The move to send him to the UN mission in New York is being seen as an attempt to compensate him.

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