In diplomacy, timing is very important and to keep pace with the pat on the back by the Prime Minister and get a more balanced image for itself, the MEA is changing its spokesperson in less than six months, with Gopal Baglay expected to move out.
Raveesh Kumar, India’s Consul General in Frankfurt is likely to take over as the new Spokesperson for the Indian Foreign office with the transition probably happening after the PM’s visit to Israel and G-20 Summit in Hamburg.
Raveesh Kumar is a bright officer currently serving as the Consul General of India in Frankfurt. He is an alumni of DPS Mathura Road and Hansraj College and has also attended programs at Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad, and the National Defence University among other prestigious institutions. Kumar started his career as an Indian Foreign Service officer in 1995 at the Indian Mission in Jakarta, followed by postings in Thimphu and London and looked after the East Asia desk during his stint in Delhi. Prior to assuming his current assignment, he was the Deputy Chief of Mission in Jakarta.
The present spokesperson, Gopal Baglay, is being moved to PMO as Joint Secretary replacing Vinay Kwatra who will move to Paris as the new Indian Envoy.
Though not as high profile as the spokesperson for the MEA, Baglay will largely take care of speeches of the Prime Minister and some policy work in the PMO. Baglay has been chosen for his bilingual skills as the PM wanted an officer with a good knowledge of Hindi and English.
While Baglay has been given a soft landing, one reason behind his departure from the MEA was that the foreign office has not been able to handle the media in the changing times of social and digital media and keep in sync with the new realities. Both these forms have become a powerful tool and a spokesperson’s job in the modern day has to be more dynamic and creative. Besides the current Foreign Secretary has a strong focus on keeping officers manning key posts according to their aptitude and he realised that the spokesperson’s job needed a different officer, who could do some out of box thinking.
The other problem, the Ministry’s public diplomacy wing has not been able to get out of the box ideas, especially at a time when they have proactive leaders in the MEA led by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and S. Jaishankar, who has been regarded as one of the brightest foreign secretaries in the recent past, have been leading the Ministry. The Ministry also won huge accolades from the Prime Minister, who praised the people connect of the Minister and the manner in which the MEA has transformed from a suit and tie ministry to one that has a ground connect. The change also reflects the thinking where officers and Envoys are being identified ahead of time for key positions.
For Baglay, the short stint has been lack lustre compared to his predecessors Syed Akbaruddin and Vikas Swarup, who left a big mark. Insiders say, he was not the first choice for the spokesperson’s job While his name was on the panel, Vikas Swarup got selected and only after Swarup’s departure, was Baglay brought in as a stop gap arrangement.