New Delhi: Salman Khurshid, the new foreign minister of India, blends illustrious pedigree, an impressive Oxford-Stephanian educational resume and a formidable track record as a Congress politician who cut his teeth in the heat and dust of Uttar Pradesh politics.
The 59-year-old Khurshid, a lawyer by training, takes over as India's external affairs minister at a time when the country's global stature is rising, and the developed world, reeling from the global downturn, is looking at New Delhi afresh as an emerging power.
The suave and articulate Khurshid, who is fluent in three languages - Hindi, English and Urdu - is no stranger to the world of international diplomacy. He served as a minister of state for external affairs (2003-2006) under then prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and played an important role in promoting India's Look East policy.
In 1994, Narasimha Rao sent Khurshid and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the BJP leader who later became prime minister, to argue India's case at the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) in Geneva. Khurshid's spirited advocacy and Vajpayee's eloquence proved to be astonishingly effective led to the withdrawal of the Pakistan-backed resolution against India.
Khurshid, a member of parliament from Farrukhabad Lok Sabha constituency, was born in Aligarh and was actively involved in reviving the Congress party in Uttar Pradesh.
The appointment of Khurshid as foreign minister has surprised many as he was in the eye of the storm recently over a controversy after TV news channel Aaj Tak "exposed" alleged financial impropriety in an NGO run by him and his wife Louise, a Christian, a charge both of them hotly denied. This clearly shows that he enjoys the confidence of what is called the Congress 'Trinity' - Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and son Rahul Gandhi - said a party insider.
Colleagues who know him well admire him for his eloquence and erudition, qualities that will serve him well when the foreign policy is intimately tied to media projection.
His pedigree is an added advantage. Khurshid is the son of Khurshid Alam Khan, a former governor and external affairs minister and grandson of Zakir Hussain, the third president of India.
A political liberal, Khurshid carved a niche for himself as the Congress party spokesperson last year when the party and the government was suffering from a credibility gap in the aftermath of the anti-corruption campaign launched by Anna Hazare and his comrades.
Khurshid served as as an Officer on Special Duty in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) when Indira Gandhi was the prime minister.
Besides politics, Khurshid has a passion for writing and acting in plays that harks back to his student days in Delhi and Oxford. He recently authored "Sons of Babur", a widely-acclaimed play which was staged against the majestic backdrop of the Red Fort in Delhi.