Thursday, May 14, 2015

Birthday Boy Ashok K Kantha: More about Yashwant Sinha’s son-in-law and India’s ambassador to China

Kantha (right) with PM Modi in China
AS Chinese traditional dancers welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Xi’an Xiangyang International Airport in China on Thursday, the man who was seen behind the PM was Ashok K Kantha, incidentally son-on-law of BJP leader and former finance minister Yashwant Sinha. It was Kantha’s birthday too (he was born on May 14, 1955), probably something PM and other PMO officials were unaware of. But Kantha, who is married to Sinha’s daughter Sharmila, is not a political appointee at Beijing. He is a career diplomat (a 1977 batch IFS officer) and got his posting in China as India’s ambassador on January 6, 2014 when the UPA was at the helms and…
Dr Manmohan Singh of the Congress was the prime minister of India. Earlier too, during the UPA, Kantha got another key post -- secretary (east) at the ministry of external affairs (MEA).
In fact, the post of India’s ambassador to China has always been considered significant and that three (out of five) recent foreign secretaries of India, Shivshankar Menon, Nirupama Rao and S Jaishankar, served as India’s ambassador to China prior to getting the top foreign ministry post, has demonstrated that.
Ambassador Kantha had earlier served as high commissioner of India in Sri Lanka (November 2009 --- May 2013) and India’s high commissioner to Malaysia (April 2007-November 2009).
In fact, Kantha’s China connection began when he studied Chinese Language at Nanyang University, Singapore, between 1979 and 1981. He consolidated his understanding about China when he became Consul General of India to Hong Kong and Macau, both parts of China, between 2000 and 2003. Then till 2007, he was the Director General of the East Asia division of the ministry of external affairs when he “played a significant role in shaping India’s relations with the countries of the region, including China”, according to his official profile updated in Indian embassy website.
A graduate in history from Patna University, Kantha joined Indian Foreign Service in July 1977.
In an interview to Phoenix TV in China, Kantha has recently talked about the Modi’s China visit and what does that mean for both the Asian nations. Kantha also mentioned how Modi's social media outreach has been lauded all over the world, while answering to a question on why did Modi register in Chinese Weibo, a Twitter-like service. “This (opening Weibo account) was his (Modi’s) personal initiative and he is happy with the warm response from the Chinese netizens. His first post “Hello China” triggered over nine million hits within 48 hours…This provides us with the perfect setting for what we expect would be a path-breaking visit. Prime Minister Modi will be posting his impressions during the visit and after."

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