US-educated Krishna is India’s foreign minister (Profile)

May 23rd, 2009 - 8:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, May 23 (IANS) A Fulbright scholar, the US-educated S.M. Krishna becomes India’s external affairs minister when New Delhi is expected to play a larger global role economically and the country’s neighbourhood is seething with challenges.
Krishna, who succeeds veteran Congress politician Pranab Mukherjee, promises to bring to his new job administrative skills and expertise he displayed as chief minister (1999-2004) to transform Karnataka into an economic powerhouse.

Under Krishna’s leadership, Bangalore began to be called India’s Silicon Valley and became a magnet for foreign investment and outsourcing destination mainly for IT companies.

The 77-year-old Congress leader, known for his fine sartorial tastes and a passion for tennis and yoga, is married to Prema and has two daughters.

Son of S.C. Mallaiah, he was born May 1, 1932 in Karnataka. He did his BA from Mysore and studied law at a government college in Bangalore.

Krishna went to the US for further studies, at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and George Washington University, where he was a Fulbright scholar.

On his return to India, he turned to politics, starting with the now defunct Praja Socialist Party. He was elected to the Karnataka assembly in 1962. In 1968, he was elected to the Lok Sabha.

He has since served as union minister of state for industry (1983-84), union minister of state for finance (1984-85) and speaker of the Karnataka assembly (1989-92).

He then became the chief minister. And when the Congress was defeated in Karnataka, he was made the governor of Maharashtra.

Vivek Kulkarni, who was the Karnataka IT secretary when Krishna was chief minister, said he was the ideal choice for the foreign ministry.

“He is a thorough gentleman… has excellent ability to interact with foreigners. He can give a very good image of the country,” said Kulkarni, who was part of the Krishna team that made Bangalore India’s IT hub and now after retirement runs an IT firm.

Krishna will have a lot on his plate when he joins his office in South Block. With the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government freed from leftwing ideological pressure, he could be expected to pursue a more robust engagement with the US with which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government signed a path-breaking nuclear deal last year.

His experience of America is sure to help him sustain the momentum in India’s multi-faceted ties with the US and the strategic partnership that New Delhi and Washington want to create.

Dealing with a volatile neighbourhood will top the priorities of Krishna who has little previous experience in dealing with foreign policy issues. With Pakistan dilly-dallying over the prosecution of the architects of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, India is set to renew its demands for bringing the attackers to justice.

The government will also have to take a call on resuming dialogue with Pakistan, frozen after the Mumbai carnage. New Delhi will also have to watch for ramifications of the threat from the Taliban in Pakistan.

With Sri Lanka ending the war against the Tamil Tigers and its leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran dead, India will focus its attention on getting Tamils an honourable political deal after the conflict.

New Delhi will have to use tact and diplomacy vis-a-vis Nepal, where the Maoists have taken an aggressive line against India after losing power in the wake of a political row.

Grappling with China is sure to test Krishna’s skills. India is keeping a watch on Chinese strategy of encirclement, specially Beijing’s moves to acquire greater clout in Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

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