New Delhi: Pradeep Kumar Rawat, former head of the East Asia division in the ministry of external affairs (MEA) and an Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer of the 1990 batch, is expected to take over as India’s new envoy to Beijing with the incumbent Vikram Misri returning to New Delhi as a secretary. Rawat is the envoy to the Netherlands since January 2021.
Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, Rawat has spent the majority of his diplomatic career either in China or handling Beijing from Delhi and was the joint secretary (East Asia) from 2014 to 2017. He was posted to Indonesia as an ambassador from 2017 to 2020.
Rawat’s posting comes at a time when India and China are facing serious friction all along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) ramping up military infrastructure and weaponry. The Indian Army and PLA are fully deployed along the 1597 km LAC in Ladakh after Beijing decided to unilaterally change the status quo on the north banks of Pangong Tso in May 2020. The Chinese aggression led to a clash in Galwan in June 2020 where the Indian Army lost 20 personnel, including Colonel Santosh Babu, but not before giving a reply in equal measure to the PLA.
In Rawat’s appointment, the Modi government has put faith in a diplomat who has huge institutional memory on the bilateral relationship as Beijing is known to twist historical facts to suit its purpose. Pradeep Rawat, who has worked with now external affairs minister S Jaishankar as his East Asia division head when he was the foreign secretary, has handled all the bilateral mechanisms and is known for his calm and professional demeanour.
Incumbent Vikram Misri returns to Delhi as the secretary in the MEA after a successful tenure in Beijing, where he handled the Ladakh crisis with equanimity. Misri, a 1989 batch IFS officer, will be able to provide his acquired expertise on China to the ministry as it will be quite sometime before the bilateral relations between the two countries get normalised.