Salman Khurshid: Lawyer-politician with a gift for words

Salman Khurshid, the new foreign minister of India, blends illustrious pedigree, an impressive Oxford-Stephanian educational  resume and a formidable track record as a Congress politician who cut his  teeth in the heat and dust of Uttar Pradesh politics.

The  59-year-old Khurshid, a lawyer by training, takes over as India's external affairs minister at a time when the country's global stature is rising, and the  developed world, reeling from the global downturn, is looking at New Delhi  afresh as an emerging power.

The  suave and articulate Khurshid, who is fluent in three languages - Hindi, English  and Urdu - is no stranger to the world of international diplomacy. He served as  a minister of state for external affairs (2003-2006) under then prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and played an important role in promoting India's  Look East policy.

In 1994, Narasimha Rao sent Khurshid and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the BJP leader who  later became prime minister, to argue India's case at the United Nations Human  Rights Commission (UNHRC) in Geneva. Khurshid's spirited advocacy and Vajpayee's  eloquence proved to be astonishingly effective led to the withdrawal of the  Pakistan-backed resolution against India.

Khurshid, a member of parliament from Farrukhabad Lok Sabha constituency, was born in Aligarh and was actively involved in  reviving the Congress party in Uttar Pradesh.

The  appointment of Khurshid as foreign minister has surprised many as he was in the  eye of the storm recently over a controversy after TV news channel Aaj Tak  "exposed" alleged financial impropriety in an NGO run by him and his wife Louise, a Christian, a charge both of them hotly denied. This clearly  shows that he enjoys the confidence of what is called the Congress 'Trinity' -  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and son Rahul  Gandhi - said a party insider.

Colleagues who know him well admire him for his  eloquence and erudition, qualities that will serve him well when the foreign  policy is intimately tied to media projection.

His  pedigree is an added advantage. Khurshid is the son of Khurshid Alam Khan, a  former governor and external affairs minister and grandson of Zakir Hussain, the third  president of India.

A political liberal, Khurshid carved  a niche for himself as the Congress party spokesperson last year when the party  and the government was suffering from a credibility gap in the aftermath of the  anti-corruption campaign launched by Anna Hazare and his comrades.

Khurshid served as as an Officer on  Special Duty in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) when Indira Gandhi was the  prime minister.

Besides politics, Khurshid has a  passion for writing and acting in plays that harks back to his student days in  Delhi and Oxford. He recently authored "Sons of Babur", a widely-acclaimed play  which was staged against the majestic backdrop of the Red Fort in Delhi.

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