Ruchira Kamboj, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of India to UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), is hosting on Wednesday March 1st a conference in Paris, at the international body’s headquarters, by top ex-Indian diplomat Nirupama Rao, who served as India’s Foreign Secretary from 2009 to 2011, as well as being India’s Ambassador to the United States, China and Sri Lanka (High Commissioner) during her career. The topic is very hot and challenging when you think about US President Donald’s Trump “tweet” diplomacy: “Diplomacy in the Age of Social Media”.
Nirupama Rao’s intervention will be preceded by an address by Deputy Director General of UNESCO, Getachew Engida.
Mrs Rao’s international experience and perspective – she was also a pioneer diplomat in the use of social media – will be much needed to shed some light on an era marked by the exponential development of social media communication in the field of international relations and diplomacy, but also by “fake news”, another way to talk about the same old propaganda, and cyber hacking.
In July 2009, Nirupama Rao became the second woman (after Chokila Iyer) to hold the post of lndia’s Foreign Secretary, the head of the Indian Foreign Service. In her career she served in several capacities including, Minister of Press, Information and Culture in Washington DC, Deputy Chief of Mission in Moscow, stints in the MEA as Joint Secretary, East Asia and External Publicity, the latter position making her the first woman spokesperson of the MEA, Chief of Personnel, Ambassador to Peru and China, and High Commissioner to Sri Lanka.
Nirupama Rao was born in 1950 in Malappuram, Kerala. Her father, Lt. Colonel P.V.N Menon, was in the Indian Army. Her mother, Meempat Narayanikutty, was the first woman college graduate in her family, obtaining a BA Mathematics (Honors) degree from Madras University in 1947. Her sisters, Nirmala and Asha, are medical doctors by profession. Nirmala, pursued a career in the Indian Navy, retiring in 2013 as Surgeon Rear Admiral.
Rao has a very rich experience on the field. Her tenure in Sri Lanka saw the devastating tsunami of December 2004 with Rao overseeing the relief operations launched by India for the affected areas of Sri Lanka, including the war torn North and East of the country.
In 2006, she became India’s first woman Ambassador to China. She saw state visits by President Hu Jintao to India and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to China.
Rao became also lndia’s second woman Foreign Secretary, on 1 August 2009. During her tenure Rao was active in handling India’s relations with its neighbors and with the United States, Russia and Japan, besides multilateral issues including nuclear energy cooperation as well as climate change.