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With a belligerent Pakistan continuing its support to state and non-state actors for perpetrating terror on Indian soil, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA government has approved the appointment of Rajinder Khanna – a former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) – as the Deputy National Security Adviser,

Khanna, considered to be an expert in counter-terrorism operations and matters related to Pakistan and Indo-Pak security issues, will be the second in command to Ajit Doval, the former Intelligence Bureau chief who has been serving as the National Security Adviser since Modi romped to power in May 2014.

The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved the appointment of Rajinder Khanna as the Deputy NSA on re-employment and on contractual basis on Tuesday, a statement released by the Centre’s department of personnel and training said.

A 1978-batch Research and Analysis Wing Service (RAS) officer, Khanna headed India’s external intelligence agency from December 2014 for a fixed two-year period. Following his retirement in December 2016, Khanna served as the officer on special duty (Neighbourhood Studies) in the National Security Council Secretariat, which prepares policy papers of neighbouring countries, including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Khanna is known to have worked closely with NSA Ajit Doval, who is the secretary of the National Security Council. Sources said that the former R&AW chief had also earned the confidence of the Prime Minister during this stint. The Prime Minister is also the ex-officio head of the National Security Council.

According to news agency PTI, this is for the first time when both the NSA the and Deputy NSA are from an intelligence agency background. The post of Deputy NSA had been lying vacant since Arvind Gupta, a former Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer, completed his tenure in August last year. Gupta was appointed to the post in August 2014.

Khanna’s appointment comes at a time when India’s relations with Pakistan seem to have hit a prolonged deadlock, both in diplomatic and trade relations. India’s relations with other neighbouring countries like China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal have also taken a hit in recent years due to various issues, either related to Modi’s foreign policy faux pas or due to a more hardline and aggressive approach of these neighbourhood nations – especially China – against India.

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