Geetika Srivastava will be India’s new charge d’affaires at its High Commission in Islamabad, becoming the first woman to hold that post.
Currently serving as joint secretary at the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), she will succeed Dr M Suresh Kumar who is likely to return to New Delhi.
Although the job entails several responsibilities, a charge d’affaires is a diplomat who temporarily heads a diplomatic mission in a foreign country in the absence of the Ambassador or High Commissioner.
Diplomatic missions between Commonwealth countries are called High Commissions, while those between non-Commonwealth countries are called Embassies.
The Indian and Pakistani missions in Islamabad and New Delhi have been without High Commissioners since August 2019 and are being headed by their respective charge d’affaires.
Ajay Bisaria was the last Indian High Commissioner to Islamabad before Pakistan downgraded the status of the High Commission following the abrogation of Article 370.
Since 1947, when the late Sri Prakasa took charge as India’s High Commissioner in Pakistan, there have been 22 heads of the mission. Ms Srivastava, a 2005 Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer will become the first woman in the role.
She served in the Indian High Commission in China from 2007 to 2009 and also had postings at the Regional Passport Office in Kolkata and as Director of the Indian Ocean Region division in the external affairs ministry.
Women diplomats from India have served in Pakistan previously but not in top positions such as this. Additionally, the role of a High Commissioner in Pakistan, besides the rigours of international diplomacy, especially between two countries that have been at loggerheads since 1947, comes with its unique set of challenges.
Islamabad was designated a “non-family” posting for Indian diplomats a few years ago, which plays a role in limiting women officers from taking up the role.