Ajai Malhotra holds an M.A. in Economics from The Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi. He joined the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) in 1977 and besides assignments at the Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi, worked at Indian diplomatic missions in Bucharest, Geneva, Kuwait, Moscow, Nairobi, New York and Washington DC.
He was Minister (Commerce) at the Embassy of India, Washington DC (1999-2003), serving simultaneously from 2002-2003 as Chairman of the International Cotton Advisory Committee. He was Ambassador of India to Romania, concurrently accredited to Albania and Moldova (2003-2005), Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, New York (2005-2009), Ambassador of India to Kuwait (2009-2011), and Ambassador of India to the Russian Federation (2011-2013), before retiring from the IFS on November 30, 2013, after nearly 37 years of distinguished service.
His wide ranging experience includes being on the Indian team negotiating issues such as biological diversity, climate change, desertification, education, energy, forestry, health, human rights, human settlements, intellectual property rights, international law, labour, ozone depletion, sustainable development and international trade. In 2004, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Western University of Arad, Romania, in recognition of his work in support of environment and development.
He is presently a Distinguished Fellow at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), New Delhi, besides being Chairman and Managing Trustee of two organisations serving the underprivileged - CHIKITSA and SHIKSHA - as well as Chairman, Nehru Trust for the Indian Collections at the Victoria & Albert Museum, and Chairman, NAB Centre for Blind Women & Disability Studies. He frequently contributes to seminars on economic, environmental, defence, political, trade and security issues.