The foreign ministry is being recast to align with its new policy priority of the Indo-Pacific region.

The ministry has created a new division, the Oceania division, headed by additional secretary Reenat Sandhu, which will focus on South-East Asian nations, Pacific Island states and the larger Indo-Pacific in a clear sign of the importance that the government accords to the region.

It will also have two director rank officers, Geetika Srivastava and Paulomi Tripathi from the 2005 and 2007 batches respectively.

The ministry’s southern division, which looked after a swathe of countries from Thailand to Australia and New Zealand, will be part of the Oceania division as will be the Indo-Pacific division. Besides countries in South-East Asia, the Oceania division will include Pacific Island states such as the Cook Islands, Tuvalu, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, the Marshal Islands, Solomon Islands and Tonga.

The idea behind the rejig is to look at countries from Thailand to the Pacific Island states as belonging to one region, Mint has learnt.

Putting an additional secretary rank official in charge of the Oceania division also underlines the importance that foreign minister S. Jaishankar and foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla attach to the region.

The move signals that New Delhi will be giving decisive shape to its engagement with countries in the Indo-Pacific.

The new administrative entity comes into existence just before a meeting of the foreign ministers of the “Quad countries”—the US, Japan, Australia and India—in Japan next month.

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