New Indian envoy to Kathmandu brings experience working with Modi, China, SAARC

KATHMANDU (The Kathmandu Post/ANN) - Vinay Mohan Kwatra, the new Indian ambassador, previously served as deputy chief of mission in Beijing and at the SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu.

Fifteen days after the departure of Manjeev Singh Puri, New Delhi has named Vinay Mohan Kwatra as the new Indian ambassador to Nepal. Kwatra, a seasoned diplomat who has served across the world, is currently serving as India’s ambassador to France.

A senior Foreign Ministry official confirmed to the Post the receipt of an agreemo from the Government of India for the appointment of Additional Secretary Kwatra as the next Indian ambassador to Nepal.

“We will review his agreemo and communicate to the Government of India soon,” the official said.

Kwatra is still in Paris and once his agreemo is approved from Kathmandu, he will return to New Delhi, where he will be briefed by various Indian government agencies on Nepal affairs before taking up his new assignment in Kathmandu, possibly next month.

Kwatra’s experience at the SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu means that he is familiar with Nepal affairs, which could be one reason why Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi picked him for the embassy in Kathmandu, surmised one Nepali leader who did not wish to be identified.

In New Delhi’s political circle, Kwatra was known as the first choice of the Bharatiya Janata Party for the Nepal assignment. Kwatra was seen as someone who will be able to handle crucial issues, including the rising geopolitical competition between China, India and the United States over Nepal, one Nepali diplomat told the Post.

Outgoing Indian Ambassador Puri came to Kathmandu when Nepal-India ties were at a historic low. Nepal was still reeling from the Indian blockade of 2015 and Puri faced the uphill task of restoring ties. Now, as Kwatra comes in, Nepal-India relations might not be at 2015 levels but India’s inclusion of Kalapani, which Nepal claims, inside its borders on a new political map has caused new tensions.

Kwatra, who brings 32 years of experience in the Indian Foreign Service, first served in Geneva. Since then, he has handled numerous portfolios across the world, including South Africa, Washington and China. He worked at the Indian Prime Minister’s Office from 2015 to 2017 before taking up the assignment in France. He is a 1988 graduate of the Indian Foreign Service with a master’s in science and a diploma in international relations.

During the first term of the Modi government, Kwatra worked as Officer on Special Duty for more than two years at the Prime Minister’s Office, serving as a liaison between the Ministry of External Affairs and various other Indian ministries.

Dipak Adhikari, the Nepali ambassador in Paris, who has met Kwatra several times, said that he recalled his stay in Kathmandu fondly and called it a “prize” posting.

“I found him very positive towards Nepal. He would tell me that he enjoyed his stay in Kathmandu a lot,” said Adhikari.

In Paris, Kwatra was an able diplomat, adept at handling Indian interests with France, which today is one of India’s closest partners, said an Indian diplomat on condition of anonymity.

“From the Security Council where France supports India to areas such as space, climate change and nuclear energy, the cooperation has been extensive,” said the Indian diplomat. “The role of the ambassador was critical and Kwatra’s performance showcases his ability to deliver on the government’s requirements.”

A number of Nepali diplomats and political leaders who know Kwatra from his time at the SAARC Secretariat told the Post that he appeared to enjoy his stay in Kathmandu. From 2006 to 2010, Kwatra represented India at the SAARC Secretariat in Nepal as head of the Trade, Economy and Finance Bureau.

“We met several times in Kathmandu when he was with SAARC,” said Nepali Congress leader Udaya Shumsher Rana. “He is academically sound, soft-spoken and knows several aspects of Nepal.”

Kwatra has worked with UN organisations like the International Labour Organization and the World Health Organization. He served at the Indian consulate in Durban, South Africa, where he was responsible for commercial and economic tasks. Later, he was posted in China as deputy chief of mission, again handling trade and commerce. In May 2010, he moved to Washington, DC, where he was the head of the commerce wing at the Embassy of India.

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