Nirupama Rao takes over as Foreign Secretary
Nirupama Rao

Nirupama Rao takes over as Foreign Secretary

New Delhi, August 1, 2009

Nirupama Rao today took over as India's new Foreign Secretary, saying that, in a rapidly evolving world situation, the country needed to augment its diplomatic and professional capabilities as it was called upon to play an even more prominent role in world affairs.
"I have before me a complex and yet fascinating assignment. I strongly believe that our diplomacy and our diplomats play a vital role in promoting the national interest and safeguarding our national goals of development in an atmosphere of peace and security," Ms Rao said in a statement after assuming office.
She said Indian diplomats today worked with dedication and professionalism in some of the world's most challenging environments and the country's foreign service counted among the best in the world.
"Today, in a rapidly evolving world situation, the task is to further augment our diplomatic and professional capabilities as we are called upon to play an even more prominent role in world affairs. This, will be an important area of focus in my new responsibilities," she said.
Ms Rao said the foreign policy interests of India encompassed a number of areas, which were both regional and global, and which concern relations with its neighbours and the world beyond.
She said economic diplomacy and public diplomacy were also issues that demanded increased attention.
"We are called upon as diplomats to deal with a number of these issues, at any one given time, in a manner that is focused, mature and balanced, that is persuasive and has vision and long term perspective. This is an absorbing task and I look forward to it with great hope and optimism," she added.
Ms Rao has succeeded Mr Shivshankar Menon, who retired from service yesterday after an eventful tenure.
Ms Rao, an officer of the 1973 batch of the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), was until recently the country's Ambassador to China.
She is the second woman to hold the prestigious post after Ms Chokila Iyer, who served as Foreign Secretary from March, 2001 to June, 2002.
Ms Rao was born in Kerala on December 6, 1950. Her early education took place in cities such as Bangalore, Pune, Lucknow and Coonoor. She has a first class Master's degree in English Literature from the Marathwada University. She joined the IFS in 1973.
As a career diplomat, Ms Rao has served in various world capitals, including Washington and Moscow. She served in the East Asia Division of the Ministry of External Affairs from 1984 to 1992, including as Joint Secretary (East Asia).
Ms Rao was Minister in the Indian Embassy in Washington from 1993-1995, in charge of Press Affairs. She was Ambassador of India to Peru from 1995 to 1998. From 1998-1999, she was Deputy Chief of Mission at the Indian Embassy in Moscow. In 1999-2000 she was Distinguished International Executive in Residence at the University of Maryland, USA.
From 2001 to 2002, she served as the first woman spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs. Thereafter she was Additional Secretary in charge of Administration & Personnel in the Ministry of External Affairs.
Ms Rao served as the High Commissioner for India in Sri Lanka from 2004-2006. In October, 2006, she took over as the Ambassador of India to China.
Ms Rao was a Fellow of the Centre for International Affairs (now the Weatherhead Centre) of Harvard University from 1992-93.
She is married to Mr Sudhakar Rao, a senior civil servant, who belongs to the Indian Administrative Service and is currently the Chief Secretary of Karnataka. They have two sons, Nikhilesh and Kartikeya.
Ms. Rao’s hobbies include music (Hindustani, Carnatic and Western), theatre and writing. She is also an accomplished singer in her own right. Her first book of poems "Rain Rising" was published in India in 2004 and also released in Sri Lanka.

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