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Ambassador’s tribute to Late Ambassador Dr. Abid Husain

On 21 June, 2012, one of India's most distinguished public servants Dr. Abid Hussain passed away in London. Dr. Abid Hussain had served as Indian Ambassador to the United States in the early nineties and I have received many messages of sympathy from a number of his admirers and friends in this country on his sudden demise.

Ambassador Abid Hussain as we all knew him, was a Renaissance man in many respects, the likes of whom are becoming a rare species in a world that is subject to so many rapid shifts and changes. What set Ambassador Hussain apart was the manner in which the elements so combined in him that he was both a warm, congenial, kind and gentle man as well as a superb spokesman for India and Indianness, blending both intellectual acuity with a vision that was holistic and humane.

In the last decade particularly, I was able to interact with Ambassador Hussain on many occasions. This was particularly so when I served as Ambassador to China. We collaborated on many occasions, in conferences and seminars where the focus was on the India-China relationship, and how we might be able to better tackle the challenges we faced as we sought to build better understanding between our two countries and peoples. It was a task that suited Ambassador Hussain perfectly. For, he was the quintessential diplomat, seeking to solve problems rather than compound them, always aware of the bottom line, a pathfinder through complex terrain, and perennially focused, laser like, on the tasks before us. What also distinguished him was that through every situation, he was the epitome of sportsmanship and good cheer, with his infectious laugh, and the twinkle in his eyes. He exuded optimism and faith in the goodness of humankind. Through his presence and his example, he compelled us to believe in our shared humanity, breaking barriers, a diplomat, a human being, without frontiers.

There were many times, when I served as Foreign  Secretary in New Delhi, that I would run into him at meetings, or, receive a brief note from him full of words of wisdom and encouragement for the work I was doing. Those words of encouragement from him became very precious to me because I knew they were so well meaning and sincere. When I was appointed Ambassador of India to the United States, he was among the first to wish me well in my new assignment.  I valued those sentiments greatly. A few days before his untimely demise, I received an email from him informing me that he was coming to Washington and was looking forward to seeing me. I was eagerly anticipating that visit when the tragic news of his passing reached me.

Ambassador Hussain exemplified the best traditions of public service. He was Hyderabadi to the core in his courteousness and in his eloquence with words always delivered with sweetness and light. He reached out to people everywhere he was assigned throughout his long years in our civil service, in India and outside India. The people of Vishakapatnam where he was District Magistrate, remember him to this day, and there is an Abid Nagar in the city named after him. Here in Washington, where he served as Ambassador in a very different and challenging period in our bilateral relations, he is remembered with deep affection as the people's Ambassador, as a builder of bridges between Indians and Americans, and as a true professional. He understood the value and the importance of trade and business relationships as an engine of growth in our relations as we worked on the architecture of a 21st century India-US partnership. His skill as a diplomat here in Washington  will continue to inspire many generations of our tribe as we serve in the Embassy of India.

Ambassador Hussain was a true product of the Nehruvian era, who in his life epitomized the fundamental tenets of secularism,  who understood the profound meaning of our tryst with destiny as we have sought to build a better and better India for our countrymen and women. The power of his example is a significant one, especially as we seek to impart more probity, transparency, idealism, uncompromising integrity and the concept of true and selfless service in public life.

I hope generations of civil servants to come will be energized by the power of the example that Abid Hussain personified through his life and work.