Once uneasy with Holbrooke, India calls him an accomplished diplomat (Lead)

December 14th, 2010 - 9:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Richard Holbrooke New Delhi, Dec 14 (IANS) India Tuesday condoled the death of US special envoy Richard C. Holbrooke and lauded him as “an accomplished diplomat” who served his country and international peace and security with distinction, signalling a change in New Delhi’s perception of the veteran US diplomat who was earlier viewed here with misgivings. “The news of the untimely demise of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke has come as a great shock,” the external affairs ministry said in a statement.

“An accomplished diplomat, he served his country and the cause of international peace and security, with distinction and exceptional insight, in his long and eventful career,” the ministry said.

“He leaves behind a number of friends and admirers in India and indeed the world over. Our heartfelt condolences to members of his family and friends,” it said.

The 69-year-old Holbrooke, the US’ high profile diplomatic troubleshooter and the Obama administration’s pointsman in the Afghan-Pakistani region, died after surgery to repair a tear in his aorta.

One of the world’s most recognizable diplomats, Holbrooke’s five decade long career spanned from the Vietnam War era to the war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, coinciding with presidencies of John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama.

India may have had initial misgivings about Holbrooke when he was appointed the US chief pointsperson for the Af-Pak region, but by the time he died, New Delhi appeared to have warmed up towards the veteran diplomat who was beginning to see Lashkar-e-Taiba, the suspected mastermind behind the Mumbai carnage, as a threat co-equal to that of Al Qaeda.

At one point, Holbrooke became a sort of persona non grata for the powers-that-be in New Delhi, specially when there was speculation about Obama appointing him as special envoy for Kashmir.

When those fears proved to be unfounded, South Block, the seat of the external affairs ministry, tended to see Holbrooke as a realist who was ready to appease Pakistan for the sake of the larger US strategic goal in Afghanistan.

Holbrooke infuriated the powers-that-be in New Delhi when he said in March that that Indians were not targeted in the Feb 26 Kabul attack.

Holbrooke was quick to sense outrage in India and regretted his remarks, even as he lauded India’s humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan.

Holbrooke last came to India in July when he surprised many by his forthright stand on Pakistan-origin terror as he pointed out links between the Taliban and Pakistani spy agency ISI and assured India that its role in Afghanistan was “not being diminished” to the advantage of Islamabad.

Finally, Holbrooke was voicing concerns India had reiterated a hundred times, winning him more friends in New Delhi.

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