He is a 1970 batch Indian Foreign Service officer. Before this, he has served as Indian Ambassador to Nepal, Indonesia and Myanmar, High Commissioner to Mauritius, Joint Secretary in the Prime Minister's Office, Deputy Chief of Mission in Tokyo and Counsellor in the Indian Embassy in Beijing. He also served as India's special Envoy for Climate change from April 2008 to February 2010.
Tenure as foreign secretary
As foreign secretary, he visited China in March 2005 for the 15th meeting of the India-China Joint Working Group on the boundary issue.
Stance on nuclear weapons
In April 2006, he said that India has no obligation to define its minimum credible nuclear-deterrent after United States Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher suggested that India "further define" its minimum deterrent. During his tenure, Saran helped negotiate the U.S.–India Civil Nuclear Agreement. On December 2012, he wrote a research article in which, he pointed out that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal expansion has been extended, this time, not to deter India but to deter possible American attack on Pakistan.
Even though the Prime Minister's Office was willing to extended his tenure as foreign secretary when he was set to retire in September 2006, Mr. Saran did retire. He was an advisor to the Prime Minister specializing in nuclear issues, as well as the Indian envoy on climate change. He quit office on 19 February 2010. He is current Chairman of the Research and Information Systems for Developing Countries (RIS) thinktank and Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi.
He is also on the Advisory Board of World Development Forum, an upcoming forum that aims to bring together citizens' groups, development organizations, businesses and governments, to a common platform to produce, evidence-based politically actionable guidance and unlock greater value, through human enterprise.
- Daily News (December 7, 2012). "Pakistan 'expanding nuclear arsenal to deter US attack'". Daily News, India. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
- Shyam Saran, World Development Forum
- "Shyam Saran is new Foreign Secretary" - article in The Hindu dated June 10, 2004
- "Shyam Saran to visit China" - article in the Hindu dated March 29, 2005
- Profile on website of Ministry of External Affairs of India