India fires top foreign office official

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NEW DELHI (AP) — The Indian government has fired its top foreign ministry official, replacing her with its current ambassador to the United States.

S. Jaishankar took over as India's new foreign secretary on Thursday, describing his elevation as "a big responsibility."He had served as India's ambassador to China before taking up the job in Washington.

The government on Wednesday cut short Sujatha Singh's tenure by six months without giving a reason.

The Indian Express newspaper said Jaishankar was rewarded for turning around India's ties with Washington — organizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Washington in September and then implementing Modi's idea of having President Barack Obama be the chief guest for India's Republic Day celebrations this week.

The Indo-U.S. ties suffered a set-back after Devyanai Khobragade, India's deputy consul general in New York, was arrested in December 2013 on visa fraud charges. She left the United States in January last year and now works in New Delhi.

It is rare for the foreign secretary to be dumped out of office, and Singh is just the second Indian foreign secretary to be unceremoniously removed from office in nearly three decades. In 1987, the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi fired A. P. Venkateswaran for announcing a visit to Pakistan apparently without approval.

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