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Hamid Ansari: versatile scholar, statesman

Special Correspondent

— Photo: PTI/ Vijay Kumar

Hamid Ansari at his residence after the announcement of his name as the UPA-Left combine Vice-Presidential candidate in New Delhi on Friday.

New Delhi: Scholar-diplomat-writer and currently Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, Mohammad Hamid Ansari, brings with him a wealth of experience, having handled an impressive range of assignments in a career spanning over 45 years. The United Progressive Alliance-Left’s Vice-Presidential candidate has a deep interest in West Asian affairs. He has written extensively on the subject, including in The Hindu, where his latest column appeared on July 11. Mr. Ansa ri edited the book, Iran Today: Twenty Five Years After the Islamic Revolution.

Mr. Ansari was appointed to the NCM in March 2006. Before that he was co-chairman of the India-U.K. Round Table, a member of the National Security Advisory Board and convener (and later chairman) of the Petroleum Ministry’s advisory committee on Oil Diplomacy for Energy Security. He was chairman of the working group on “Confidence building measures across segments of society in the State,” established by the Second Round Table Conference of the Prime Minister on Jammu and Kashmir in 2006. The report of the working group was adopted by the Third Round Table in April 2007. Among other things, the report advocates recognising the right of Kashmiri Pandits to return to “places of their original residence.” This right, it argued, should be recognised without any ambiguity and made a part of state policy.

Mr. Ansari joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1961. He was Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia, and High Commissioner to Australia. He served as New Delhi’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations based in New York.

Mr. Ansari was Vice-Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University and was a Visiting Professor at the Centre for West Asian and African Studies in Jawaharlal Nehru University and at the Academy for Third World Studies in Jamia Millia Islamia.

Mr. Ansari wrote trenchantly on the Palestinian issue and took positions inconvenient to the Indian official line on Iraq and Iran. In a Leader Page article, “Alternative approaches to West Asian crises” (The Hindu, May 5, 2006), he brought out the need for simultaneous progress on Palestine, Iraq and Iran. In an earlier article, “Et EU, India,” (Outlook, October 10, 2005), he questioned India’s vote in the International Atomic Energ y Agency on Iran’s nuclear programme. He said that though the Indian Government claimed to have acted on “its own judgment,” this was not borne out by facts.

Mr. Ansari was born in Kolkata on April 1, 1937 though his family belongs to Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1984. He is the grand-nephew of Dr. Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari, who was President of the Indian National Congress in 1927 (Madras Session).

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