Outgoing Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar has been the chief architect of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's aggressive foreign policy

Jaishankar played key role in signing Indo-US civil nuclear deal. Jaishankar negotiated Depsang incursion and Doklam stand-off with China. Jaishankar retires after longest stint as foreign secretary in four decades

by Prabhash K Dutta

The revised Assomption Island treaty, signed yesterday, between India and Seychelles was the last official assignment of Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, who retires today after a three-year stint. He served as the foreign secretary of India for the longest time since Kewal Singh, who retired in 1976.

S Jaishankar is credited with building the much talked about "aggressive" foreign policy of the Narendra Modi government. He is known to work on assignments almost silently giving more eloquent prime minister opportunity to hog the limelight on foreign policy.

His tenure, including the extension of one year saw a transformation in the working of the ministry of external affairs, which has five officials of secretary rank. The foreign secretary used to be seen as first among equals till not long ago but Jaishankar's diplomatic versatility and political faith shown in him by the Narendra Modi government changed that equation. Now, the foreign secretary is above equals.

​Jaishankar has had excellent working relations with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who has been instrumental in changing the face of her ministry - from a bland engagement with the world to a more humane conversation with people around the globe.


Enjoying complete trust of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, outgoing Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar worked with greater freedom in the ministry

​Jaishankar enjoyed tremendous trust of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and handled his diplomatic engagements personally. He was entrusted with the planning of PM Modi's foreign visits and nuancing India's stand on key issues even if they fell under other secretaries.

PM Modi used to have Jaishankar present in meetings with his counterparts. On several occasions, Jaishankar travelled to key countries to prepare for PM Modi's visits. His early arrival in those countries would give a clear signal to their leadership that India was serious about the issues to be discussed.

In many ways, Jaishankar functioned as foreign affairs advisor to PM Modi. The fact that he had great rapport with Sushma Swaraj helped him work with greater freedom and authority in the external affairs ministry.


1. An IFS officer of 1977 batch, Jaishankar began his career as Third and Second Secretary (Political) in the then USSR between 1979 and 1981. He came back to New Delhi to work on the Americas Desk in the MEA. More than two decades later, Jaishankar headed the desk during 2004-07 and played key role in inking Indo-US nuclear deal.

2. The then PM Manmohan Singh and US President George Bush were keen on seeing the civil nuclear deal through. But the political equation in the two countries and global opinion were not favourable. Still Jaishankar kept the blocks moving, and finally the deal was signed in 2008.

3. Jaishankar was appointed Indian High Commissioner to Singapore in 2007. During his tenure till 2009, he pushed for implementation of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) ensuring wider reach and presence of Indian businesses in Singapore.

4. His tenure as Ambassador to China was eventful and helped deepen India-China cooperation on several fronts. In 2012, Jaishankar became the first Indian Ambassador to visit Tibet in ten years.

5. Much of the credit for government's hardened stand in dealing with China goes to Jaishankar, who had taken a strong objection to China's refusal to issue a visa to a senior military officer in 2010. And, later in 2012, in response to Chinese passports showing Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin as territories of China, Jaishankar asked MEA officials to issue visa to Chinese people showing these regions as parts of India.

6. Jaishankar was instrumental in ending Chinese incursion in Ladakh's Depsang Plains in 2013. He had even threatened to cancel Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's India visit if PLA's forces did not withdraw. Latest in the series was the resolution of Doklam stand-off last year. Jaishankar negotiated the 73-day stand-off near India-China-Bhutan tri-junction where Chinese troops attempted to alter status quo violating the understanding arrived between New Delhi and Beijing in 2012.

7. From China, Jaishankar went to the United States as India's Ambassador at a time when Devyani Khobragade incident clouded over Indo-US relations. He was involved in negotiating Kohbragade's departure from the US.

8. He was the planner when Narendra Modi showcased his popularity at world's stage with a grand public address at the Madison Square in New York in September 2014. Four months later, Jaishankar was appointed as the foreign secretary in on January 28, 2015 - three days before his retirement - when Modi government removed Sujata Singh from the post.

9. The recent upswing in India-Israel relationship is also seen as diplomatic hardwork of Jaishankar. The top leaders from the two countries have made a flurry of tours of each other's countries. During his stint, India upgraded its relationship with Israel to "strategic partnership".

10. Jaishankar is considered as the only diplomat to have "knowledge" about Russia, the US, China and the ASEAN in equal measure. On personal front, Jaishankar is married to Kyoko and has three children. He earned PhD from JNU and counts CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury and NCP leader DP Tripathi as friends.