Author and ex-UN diplomat is India’s new junior foreign minister (Lead)

May 28th, 2009 - 11:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh By Manish Chand
New Delhi, May 28 (IANS) A few days ago, Shashi Tharoor, a former UN bureaucrat and a newly elected Congress MP, said he wanted to be involved with the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs. Now his wish has been surpassed as Tharoor begins a new innings as a junior minister in India’s foreign ministry.

This is clearly the the high point in the life of the 53-year-old Tharoor, who lost narrowly to South Korea’s Ban Ki-moon for the UN top job in 2007, resigned from his position and plunged into the hurly burly of Indian politics barely a few months ago.

The former UN undersecretary-general is expected to effectively complement External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna as a minister of state at a time when India’s global stature is growing despite and the country’s neighbourhood is seething with problems.

Tharoor is also expected to make up for relative inexperience of Preneet Kaur, Congress MP from Patiala and wife of former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, who has also been named as a junior foreign minister, or minister of state.

In an interview to IANS last week before his name was included in the council of ministers, Tharoor, the first-time Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram, had indicated his interest in being part of foreign affairs committee of parliament and playing a proactive role in it.

A quintessential diplomat by temperament, he had, however, tactfully skirted questions on his chances of making it to the external affairs ministry. But deep down he knew it was coming his way.

Tharoor advocates a realistic foreign policy, purused by the Manmohan Singh government in its first term, that is “both autonomous and independent and at the same time is pegged to development and security needs of our people”.

“We need a realistic calculation of our national interests. Well, people say it’s pro-US, pro-West or pro-Israel, but they are all meaningless labels. The only pro any of us can be is to be pro India,” Tharoor had said in a wide-ranging conversation.

Tharoor, who knows the UN system from inside, is all for India reviving its campaign for a seat in an expanded UN Security Council and playing a larger role on the global stage.

He, however, cautioned against India playing the role of “a great power in the military sense or in terms of hard power,” but using its enormous creative energies through soft power.

Being a minister will not, however, detract from what he sees as his core mission to transform Thiruvananthavuram, Kerala’s capital, into a global city.

“Making a difference to people in my constituency is ultimately what I am going to be judged by,” he said. The challenge, as Tharoor said, will be now to juggle his new responsibility at the center with the grassroots issues of his constituency.

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