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Harsh Vardhan Shringla: A bona fide Indian diplomat

Update: 2016-01-11 10:32:00 AM
Harsh Vardhan Shringla: A bona fide Indian diplomat

DHAKA: Newly appointed Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Harsh Vardhan Shringla is a career diplomat and a member of the Indian Foreign Service.

In the course of his diplomatic career spanning over 30 years, Shringla held a variety of positions in New Delhi and also in Indian missions in Paris, Hanoi and Tel Aviv.

He also served as Minister/Counselor in the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations, New York and as Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City of Vietnam and Durban of South Africa.

Prior to taking up his post as high commissioner in Bangladesh, Shringla served as ambassador of India to the Kingdom of Thailand and Permanent Representative of India to UNESCAP. Earlier, in the Ministry of External Affairs, he served as Joint Secretary responsible for Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Maldives.

Shringla also headed the United Nations Political and SAARC Divisions in the ministry. He served as Director of the Northern (Nepal and Bhutan) Division and Deputy Secretary of the Europe West Division.

He graduated from St. Stephen's College, Delhi and worked in the Corporate and Public Sectors in India prior to joining Indian Foreign Service.

He also studied multilateral diplomacy and conflict prevention in Columbia University, New York. He published an international paper on the subject. He also published articles on economic diplomacy and the Indian Diaspora.

Shringla is set to assume his present position as High Commissioner of India to Bangladesh on 14 January in 2016.

The diplomat speaks French, Vietnamese and Nepalese apart from English and Indian languages. He is married to Hemal Store and they have a son.

Diplomatic observers were taken by surprise by the choice of Harsh Vardhan Shringla as India’s next high commissioner to Bangladesh in place of Pankaj Saran, who has proceeded to Moscow.

After all, Shiringla had not completed even two years of his three year term as India’s ambassador to Thailand. However, the appointment to a crucial, some would even say that the most crucial neighbor of India’s, was a carefully thought through decision by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Harsh V Sharingla has had an enviable track record in the Indian Foreign service.

After appearing 15th in the All India Civil services, Shringla opted for the Foreign Service and chose French as his foreign language, as a result of that he was posted on two different occasions to Paris.

One of the youngest ever to be appointed as consul general of India at the age of 27, Shringla served in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City of Vietnam in late eighties and early nineties during geopolitical shifts and transitions. He was also Consul General in Durban of South Africa where India has a large community of Indian origin.
He was counselor in India’s mission to Israel at the turn of the millennium. One of Shringla’s specializations has been multilateral diplomacy, having charged at India’s Permanent Mission to UN in New York for over four years, where he made a famous repartee to Pakistan’s then President Parvez Musharraf’s statement critical of India at the UN in September in 2003.

The envoy was assigned briefly as head of the ministry’s UN political division in 2010-11 when India was contesting the UN Security Council non-permanent seat which it won with the maximum number votes ever secured.

In his short six-month stint as JS (SAARC) Shringla gained valuable experience in handling the complexities of the regional organization at its summit in Thimphu of Bhutan in 2010.

Shringla’s real abilities were tested during his stint as joint secretary (head of the mission) in charge of neighboring Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Maldives from 2011-2014, a time of great transition and tumultuous developments in all four countries.

Sent as Special Envoy to Maldives, Shrilngla was successful in extricating Mohammed Nasheed, former president, from his self-imposed sanctuary in Indian High Commission in Male under an assurance that the political leader would be allowed to contest the forthcoming general elections (which he did).

Shringla was an instrumental in working out the contours of the settlement of the land and maritime boundaries between India and Bangladesh with his Bangladesh counterparts; the first transfer of 500-MW power from India and the successful implementation of the $ 1 billion line of credit extended in 2010.

His valuable experience and reputation as a no nonsense interlocutor with India’s neighbors is what prompted Prime Minister Narendra Modi to hone in on him as his envoy to a critical neighbor.

Modi is relying on Shringla to ensure that the agreements he signed during his visit to Bangladesh as implemented and this important relationship sensitive to India’s vital interests are protected.

In last few years, Shringla worked closely with many of the current political leaders in India, including its foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, and is known to be the choice of Swaraj and foreign secretary S Jaishankar in his appointment.

His record in Bangkok in ensuring that relations with Thailand remanded on a even keel despite the challenges of a military coup in that country and his personal ability to strengthen bilateral ties with India’s southeast Asian neighbors have held him in good stead with the establishment, both in India and Thailand.

Before leaving for Bangladesh, Shringla was received by President Pranab Mukherjee, who takes a personal interest in relations with Bangladesh. As joint secretary, Shringla often had opportunity to brief Mukherjee on details of the evolving relationship and accompanied him to Bangladesh on more than one occasion.

BDST:  2134 HRS, JAN 11, 2016

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