India's Ambassador to Italy, Arif Mohammed Khan, who passed away in Rome on Tuesday after an illness, was laid to rest here on Friday. He was 58.

The burial ceremony and last namaz in memory of Ambassador Khan were attended by his family, friends and colleagues, as well as by Vice-President Hamid Ansari, himself a former diplomat, and External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna.

The first head of the Public Diplomacy Division in the Ministry of External Affairs, Arif Khan also served as MEA spokesperson and as India's ambassador to Syria. His other major postings were in Paris and New York.

Credited by his colleagues with an instinctive grasp of diplomacy and politics, Arif Khan was the face and voice of the MEA for nearly five years in the 1990s as Joint Secretary (External Publicity).

With the Indian government under attack in the foreign press on a range of issues, it was up to him to hold the line, a task he performed with great aplomb and effectiveness.

“He lived a life of fierce intensity, with no scope for the middle path,” Talmiz Ahmed, India's ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told The-Hindu. “He was clear and categorical at a difficult time for Indian diplomacy”.

Born in Cuttack, Arif studied at St. Stephen's College in Delhi and taught economics for a year before joining the 1974 batch of the Indian Foreign Service.

He is survived by his wife, academician Farida Khan, and two sons.

Correction

India's Ambassador to Italy, who passed away recently is Arif Shahid Khan. The text of a report “Ambassador Arif Khan laid to rest” (March 21, 2010) had his name incorrectly right through as Arif Mohammed Khan.

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