Meet Mani Mecklai, diplomat holding fort at Indian mission

With a conflict raging in Libya, a woman diplomat is holding fort with a little over a dozen staff in the Indian Embassy in Tripoli, coordinating one of the biggest evacuations of Indians in at least the last two decades the last ones being Kuwait and Lebanon.

She is Mani Mecklai, a 1981-batch Indian Foreign Service officer, a fluent speaker of Arabic (spoken in Libya), who is earning praise from her peers as well as the political class as she leads the evacuation of Indians, mostly workers in construction firms and oil fields. There are some 18,000 Indians in Libya.

Mecklai, who doesn't seem to enjoy the limelight, is at the forefront of the talks with the Libyan regime in the most difficult circumstances. Her task became even more difficult as India backed UN sanctions against Libya.

She convinced the Libyan government to allow Indian aircraft to land in Tripoli as well as to permit Indian ships to evacuate people from Libya.

In constant touch with External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao, she keeps on updating New Delhi about the relief operation. National Security Advisor Shivshanker Menon is understood to be very appreciative of her role.

Mecklai had been joint secretary, in charge of West Asia and North Africa (which looks after Libya and Egypt as well and much of the Arab world, which is witnessing the "jasmine revolution") before, and had been posted in Sudan another conflict-ridden country.

She had a stint in Egypt, posted at the Indian consulate in New York, and worked in The Netherlands. In Delhi, she was dealing with the crucial China desk and the National Security Council secretariat. Many are already comparing her performance with Nengcha Lhouvum, India's Ambassador to Lebanon in 2006, who got the prestigious Prime Minister's Award for Excellence in Public Administration.

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