S Jaishankar, face of India's assertive foreign policy, returns to Modi cabinet (2024)

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Dr S. Jaishankar took the oath of office and secrecy on June 9, 2024 as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's union cabinet. He will return to the South Block to resume his ministerial operations as External Affairs Minister for an unprecedented second term in a row.

In May 2019, when India's outgoing External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj dialed former Foreign Secretary Dr SJaishankar, the latter was buying books at a famous Khan Market bookstore in New Delhi. Swaraj's call took Jaishankar by surprise.

"I wasn't expecting it at all," Jaishankar said in an interview published on March 17, 2024.

The call was made to inform the then president for Tata group's global corporate affairs — a job Jaishankar took after his retirement in January 2018 —that he would be the next occupant of the South Block, one of the secretariat buildings in New Delhi that also houses External Affairs Ministry.

For the former Foreign Secretary (2015-2018), this was a homecoming of sorts.On May 31, 2019, Jaishankar was seated on the special dias created to seat all 57 ministers. The South Block's 'China specialist',was going to become India's External Affairs Minister.S Jaishankar, face of India's assertive foreign policy, returns to Modi cabinet (1)

The then-Indian Foreign Secretary, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar pictured with the then-External Affairs Minister, lateSushma Swarajin New Delhi on October 18, 2016 | AFP

Five years later, on June 9, 2024, even as PM Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party faced the challengeto accommodate allies from National Democratic Alliance (NDA) within the Union cabinet due to its reduced majority, the External Affairs Ministry was not up for negotiations.

The choice was rather unanimous. Dr S. Jaishankar took oath at Rashtrapati Bhawan for a second time in a rowduring Prime Minister Narendra Modi's unprecedentedthird term in power.

Also read |What is Neighbourhood First, SAGAR outlook? Foreign policy frameworks at centre of Modi 3.0 inauguration

For five years into his job as External Affairs Minister, the diplomat-politician emerged as Modi government's most articulate voice that marked India's geopolitical rise in a sharply polarised world. Among the Gen-Z voters, in WION's Election Vibe Check, Jaishankar came up as the second-most popular minister from Modi 2.0 cabinet after Road Transport and Highways minister Nitin Gadkari.S Jaishankar, face of India's assertive foreign policy, returns to Modi cabinet (2)

Dr S. Jaishankar was assessed as the second-most popularminister in Modi cabinet (2019-2024) by the Gen-Z voters during WION's Election Vibe Check | WION

An alumni of University of Delhi's St. Stephen's College and Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jaishankar's crisp retorts — "India imports less oil from Russia in a month than Europe does in an afternoon" — amplified New Delhi's independent voice in the world during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's second term in power. He is credited to have brought the complicated diplomatic matters to the accessible wavelengths of YouTube and Instagram in their most-popular 60-second short-video format.

Jaishankar's ability to work the phones — a skill honed over decades of his career as a diplomat — have earned him praises across the corridors of power in and beyond New Delhi.

Also read |Top 7 Foreign Policy Achievements Of Swaraj-Jaishankar Years

But after the United States accused an Indian official of plotting to kill Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, his understanding of flips-flops of global power dynamics faced the test of its time. Critics accused him of helming over India's "bellicose" foreign policy outlook after French President Emmanuel Macron became New Delhi's choice for 2024 Republic Day celebrations instead of US President Joe Biden.

But Jaishankar asserted that overall India-US relations will not be disturbed by Washington's murder plot allegations.

Among others, even as Russia's war in Ukraine raged on, the larger stability in India-Russia ties pointed to settling down of New Delhi's new great power diplomacy under Jaishankar.

Also read |The Capitals: New Delhi achieves crucial strategic breakthrough with Tehran outreach

"The five years since 2019 represent a prolonged period of crises and conflicts, making the task of managing India's foreign policy an exceptionally challenging one," Rajiv Bhatia, distinguished fellow at Mumbai's Gateway House and former ambassador, told WION.

"But External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar performed brilliantly, advancing India's interests and raising the profile of its diplomacy. Looking ahead, equations with major powers and the immediate neighbourhood are sure to test the capabilities and political acumen ofIndia's top diplomat under Modi Govt 3.0," he further said.

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S Jaishankar, face of India's assertive foreign policy, returns to Modi cabinet (3)

Mukul Sharma

Mukul Sharma is a New Delhi-based multimedia journalist covering geopolitical developments in and beyond the Indian subcontinent. Deeply interested in the affairs

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S Jaishankar, face of India's assertive foreign policy, returns to Modi cabinet (2024)
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