Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Vinay Mohan Kwatra: PM’s new OSD, his fluency in Hindi and understanding of economy and terrorism

IT WAS July 2014. Prime Minister Narendra Modi needed interpreters with fluency in Hindi, as he was to leave for Brazil via Germany to attend the BRICS summit. A 1988 batch IFS officer -- Vinay Mohan Kwatra, who was then posted in MEA on counter-terrorism desk, reportedly created a pool of Hindi-speaking diplomats who could double up as interpreters. On Tuesday, the government appointed Kwatra as an officer on special duty (OSD) in Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) with a direction to the cabinet secretary that…
he may “assess the suitability of Kwatra to hold JS-level post in Government of India expeditiously”. The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC), in its order dated October 6, 2015, approved that Kwatra be designated as joint secretary in the Prime Minister's Office after his empanelment to hold JS-level post in Government of India. He was already serving as joint secretary in MEA, but to be JS in other ministries, one has be JS-empanelled. Kwatra will be replacing 1991 batch IFS officer Jawed Ashraf in the PMO. The ACC further directed Kwatra to join the PMO immediately so as to “facilitate an overlap for smooth assumption of charge” and “in order to familiarize himself with the work before Shri Ashraf relinquishes charge”. Here are 10 things you may like to know about Kwatra.
1. A masters in science and also diploma holder in international relations, Kwatra is a 1988 batch IFS officer.
2. He speaks French and has a working knowledge of Russian. Unlike many other IFS officers, Kwatra can speak Hindi very fluently.
3. According to some reports, Kwatra’s name was also considered to be the private secretary of Prime Minister Modi, but the PM then chose a younger IFS officer -- Sanjeev Singla for the post.
4. As a diplomat, Kwatra’s first assignment was in Geneva. He then dealt with UN organizations such as International Labour Organization (ILO), World Health Organization (WHO) etc.
5. He was then posted in Consulate in Durban, South Africa. There he was mainly responsible for commercial and economic work. Later, he was posted in China (as Deputy Chief of Mission to the Indian Embassy in China), where he handled trade and commerce.
6. At the Indian Embassy in Tashkent, Kwatra served in its political and economic wing.
7. He served as director in MEA, dealing with India’s relations with Iran and Afghanistan. He handled India’s development programme in Afghanistan.
8. He was also director and head of economic, trade and finance issues at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
9. In May 2010, he moved to Washington DC where he was the head of the commerce wing in the Embassy of India.
10. As Kwatra is replacing Ashraf, his new assignment is likely to include among others the monitoring of PM’s visits abroad.

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