Describing her new assignment as "complex and yet fascinating", Nirupama Rao on Saturday took over as and indian Foreign Secretary with a focus on further augmenting India's diplomatic capabilities. The appointment of the 58-year-old seasoned diplomat comes at a time when India's relations with Pakistan are going through testing times in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. "I strongly believe that our diplomacy and our diplomats play a vital role in promoting national interest and safeguarding our national goals of development in an atmosphere of peace and security," she said after assuming charge at South Block here. Rao, a 1973-batch IFS officer succeeds Shivshankar Menon, who demitted his office day after a stint of two years and ten months. "Today, in a rapidly evolving world situation, the task is to further augment our diplomatic and professional capabilities as we are called upon to play an even more prominent role in world affairs. "This will be an important area of focus in my new responsibilities. The foreign policy interests of our nation encompass a number of areas, which are both regional and global, and which concern relations with our neighbours and the world beyond", she said. Rao is the second women after Chokila Iyer to hold the post of Foreign Secretary. "Economic diplomacy and public diplomacy are also issues that demand increased attention. We are called upon as diplomats to deal with a number of these issues, at any one given time, in a manner that is focused, mature and balanced, that is persuasive and has vision and long term perspective," Rao said. "This is an absorbing task and I look forward to it with great hope and optimism," she said. Besides Pakistan, dealing with other nations of the "turbulent" neighbourhood would be among her foremost challenges. The diplomat, who was ambassador to China before her new assignment, will have a tenure of 17 months as the top foreign ministry official. Prior to her stint in China, she has served in various key positions, including India's High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and was the first woman spokesperson of the External Affairs Ministry. Earlier, she had served in the Indian Missions in Washington and Moscow, besides having a stint in the Ministry of External Affairs as Joint Secretary (East Asia).