KATHMANDU, March 1: India has named a senior diplomat at the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Manjeev Singh Puri, as its new ambassador to Nepal. Puri will be succeeding Ranjit Rae, whose term as envoy to Nepal ended on Tuesday.
Highly-placed diplomatic sources said the MEA wrote to Nepal's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) on Wednesday, seeking agreement to appoint him.
The decision of the Indian government comes a day after Puri completed his term as Indian envoy to the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg.
India usually picks a successor to its Kathmandu-based ambassador almost two months in advance. This is the first time after 28 years that New Delhi failed to pick its envoy on time, leaving its Kathmandu-based Embassy without an ambassador at least for a few weeks.
With Rae returning home on Wednesday, Deputy Chief of Mission, Vinay Kumar has started working as India's Acting Ambassador in Kathmandu.
Born in 1959, Ambassador Puri joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1982. Prior to his diplomatic assignment in Brussels, he was Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of India to the UN in New York from 2009 to 2013.
Expectations are high in Nepal that Puri as a seasoned diplomat of Indian Foreign Service would be able to mend the relations between the two countries that soured mainly after India's unofficial economic blockade against Nepal last year. "I have had a chance to know him when I served as the permanent representative to the United Nations in New York. I am confident that he will be able to further strengthen our bilateral relations," said former foreign secretary and ambassador Madhu Raman Acharya.
Ambassador Puri is actively involved with issues of sustainable development and environment. He was a lead negotiator in India's delegation for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 2012. He also served as a key member of India's delegation at various Climate Change negotiations, including the Major Economies Forum and the Conference of Parties of the UNFCCC in Copenhagen in December 2009.
At the MEA, Puri headed the United Nations Division from 2005 to 2009, dealing with economic and social issues. In the course of his Foreign Service career, he served twice in Germany (in Bonn from 1984-86 and Berlin from 1991-94). His other postings have been Bangkok (1986-89), Caracas (1989-91), Cape Town (1998-2002), Muscat (2002-05) and as Deputy Chief of Protocol in-charge of high level visits in the MEA from 1994-98.
Ambassador Puri holds a Masters Degree in Management. He did his BA (Honours) in economics from St Stephen's College, Delhi University, with top honors.