New team at foreign ministry gets down to business

May 29th, 2009 - 6:22 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 29 (IANS) The new team in the external affairs ministry got down to business Friday as Shashi Tharoor, a former UN bureaucrat and novelist, and Preneet Kaur, Congress MP from Patiala, took charge as ministers of state.
Tharoor is expected to deal with issues relating to Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe. Kaur is likely to focus her energies on improving relations with the Middle East - home to five million-strong Indian diaspora. Both Tharoor and Kaur will assist External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna who took charge early this week.

Dressed in a blue bandgala suit, a beaming Tharoor said he was very happy to be in his new office as he has dealt with the Indian external affairs ministry as a UN diplomat not too long ago.

“I am very happy to be here. This is a ministry that I have had very, very good, constructive and positive dealings with for many many years and to be part of this is a real privilege,” the 53-year-old Tharoor told reporters after stepping inside his South Block office.

“India’s place in the world is of great importance. India is a country which for the longest period of time, since the days of Jawaharlal Nehru, has had an honoured place in the world,” said Tharoor.

“…And I wish to make my own contribution for strengthening that very honoured place,” he stressed. He has authored nine books, including “The Great Indian Novel” and the bestselling “From Midnight to the Millennium”.

Tharoor was received by Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and senior officials of the external affairs ministry as he headed to his office.

“There are very clear policies of the government of India on these issues. I certainly hope to be a good and faithful servant of these policies,” he said cautiously when asked whether he will pursue India’s case for a permanent membership in the UN Security Council.

Tharoor served as Undersecretary General for Communications and Public Information before he contested for the job of the UN chief over two years ago. He lost narrowly to South Korea’s Ban ki-Moon, who is presently UN Secretary-General.

Tharoor, who won his maiden Lok Sabha election from Thiruvananthapuram, also said he was indebted to his voters and he would not allow his position in Delhi to detract from his promise - of making the Kerala capital a truly global city.

“There is a lot that needs to be done in Thiruvananthapuram as well and that will also be attended to,” he said.

The other MoS, Preneet Kaur, dressed in a smartly cut salwar-kameez, appeared at ease in her new role as she underlined the need for peace with neighbours.

“We always want good relations with neighbours but the one thing we will not tolerate is terrorism and sheltering of terrorists,” Kaur told reporters inside her office when asked if India will resume bilateral dialogue with Pakistan.

Kaur, the wife of former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, also lauded the government for handling the issue after clashes inside a gurdwara in Vienna involving rival Sikh groups sparked violence in parts of Punjab.

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