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The Multifaceted Journey of Hardeep Singh Puri: Diplomat to Minister

Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, is a seasoned diplomat who has carved a path for himself, leaving an indelible mark in both the bureaucratic and political realms A 1974-batch IFS officer, Mr. Puri's bureaucratic experience also includes serving as Joint Secretary to the Government of India in the Ministry of External Affairs from 1994 to 1997 and again from 1999 to 2002
Indian Masterminds Stories

Union Minister for Urban Development, Housing, Petroleum and Natural Gas, Mr Hardeep Singh Puri, is a seasoned diplomat who has carved a path for himself, leaving an indelible mark in both the bureaucratic and political realms. His journey is a testament to his unwavering dedication, keen intellect, and unwavering commitment to public service.

Diplomatic Career:

He is best known for his role as India’s Permanent Representative to United Nations from 2009 to 2013, putting forth India’s point of view at the global forum, especially the frequent diplomatic onslaughts unleashed by our neighbours China and Pakistan. A 1974-batch IFS officer, Mr. Puri’s bureaucratic experience also includes serving as Joint Secretary to the Government of India in the Ministry of External Affairs from 1994 to 1997 and again from 1999 to 2002.

Additionally, he held the position of Joint Secretary to the Government of India in the Ministry of Defence from 1997 to 1999. These roles not only exposed him to the intricacies of policymaking but also honed his ability to navigate complex bureaucratic structures and forge effective partnerships across different government agencies.

One of Puri’s most significant achievements was his role as the chairman of the United Nations Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee from January 2011 to February 2013. During this critical period, he played a pivotal role in coordinating international efforts to combat terrorism, a challenge that continues to plague nations worldwide. His leadership and diplomatic acumen were instrumental in fostering cooperation and consensus among member states, paving the way for more effective counter-terrorism measures.

Throughout his diplomatic career, Puri has been stationed at various important posts, including as India’s ambassador to Brazil and as Deputy High Commissioner in Japan, Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom. These experiences have undoubtedly enriched his global perspective and equipped him with a deep understanding of international affairs, invaluable assets in his current roles as a politician and policymaker.

He served at the headquarters of the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi, as Under Secretary in the early 1980s, as Director and Chef de Cabinet to the Foreign Secretary in the early 1990s, as Joint Secretary of the Americas and Europe West Divisions and on deputation to the Ministry of Defence in the 1990s. He was also Permanent Secretary dealing with economic relations in the Ministry of External Affairs from June 2008 to April 2009, before joining as Ambassador and Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations in New York on 4 May, 2009.

Retired from the Indian Foreign Service on 28 February, 2013 and joined the International Peace Institute (IPI), New York, a non-profit think tank with headquarters in New York and offices in Vienna and Manama. Senior Adviser from June to December 2013. Vice-President of the IPI and Secretary General of the Independent Commission on Multilateralism (ICM).

Transition to Politics

It was because of his vast diplomatic experience that when he decided to shift his domain to politics – as a primary member of the BJP – in January 2014, almost five months before the party rode to power in Lok Sabha elections, Puri was tipped to helm the External Affairs Ministry. But, the portfolio was handed over to more seasoned politician Sushma Swaraj. But, he didn’t have to wait long to display his political skills.

He was asked to contest the Lok Sabha elections in 2019 as BJP candidate from Amritsar – one of the few Sikh candidates fielded by the party during its forty-years journey. He fought valiantly but lost of Aam Aadmi Party candidate Gurjeet Singh Aujala by slightly less than a lakh votes. Its was a significant achievement as BJP never had significant presence in Punjab, riding piggyback on Shiromani Akali Dal during past 35 years.

But, his efforts in the political arena didn’t go unnoticed. He was inducted in Modi-2.0 cabinet as the Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Housing and Urban Affairs and Civil Aviation, as well as the Minister of State for Commerce and Industry. This appointment marked a significant milestone in his transition from diplomacy to governance, allowing him to apply his extensive experience and expertise to address pressing issues in these vital sectors.

One of Puri’s most notable contributions as a politician has been conceptualising and execution of the Central Vista Project, a massive undertaking aimed at revamping the entire seat of police including iconic Parliament of India in New Delhi and many government offices including Prime Minister of India’s office and residence.

Political Stances and Criticisms

Despite facing criticism and opposition, Puri’s steadfast determination and commitment to this ambitious project have ensured its progress, with completion projected for 2024. This endeavour not only showcases his ability to navigate complex challenges but also underscores his vision for a modern and revitalized capital city. Completion and inauguration of new Parliament House was a a big feather in Mr Puri’s cap.

During the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Puri’s diplomatic prowess was once again called upon when he was dispatched as part of a special envoy to Budapest, Hungary, to assist in the coordination efforts. His leadership played a crucial role in the successful Operation Ganga initiative, which facilitated the safe return of 6,711 Indian students from the war-torn region, demonstrating his ability to navigate complex geopolitical situations with poise and efficacy.

Mr Puri as Housing and Development Minister has always been at loggerheads with AAP Government in Delhi headed by Mr Arvind Kejriwal. He has been most vociferous in denouncing the state government for its various decisions and steps construed by him as anti-people and mere gimmicks.

Literary Contributions and Personal Background

Mr Puri’s personality would remain incomplete without describing his writings. He is an avid writer who has published almost half a dozen books on internal affairs, external security and diplomacy. Some of the best sellers authored by Mr Puri are Perilous Interventions: The Security Council and the Politics of Chaos, Delusional Politics and Separating The Wheat From The Chaff: Decoding Dominant Narratives.

An alumni of Delhi University Mr Puri has also edited a book to mark centenary celebrations of his alma matter. Mr Puri’s father too was a civil servant which is why he did most of his education in boarding schools. Before joining the Indian Foreign Services, Mr Puri also taught at the prestigious St Stephans College in Delhi. His wife Lakshmi Puri too is an IFS officer.

Hardeep Singh Puri’s journey from a distinguished diplomat to a prominent politician has been marked by numerous accomplishments and challenges. His unwavering commitment to public service, coupled with his extensive experience and expertise, have positioned him as a key figure in shaping India’s domestic and international policies. As he continues to navigate the complexities of governance, Puri’s legacy as a bureaucrat and diplomat serves as a foundation upon which he can build a lasting impact on the nation’s progress and development.


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