He was one of those who paved the way for India’s economic liberalisation
Abid Hussain, who was among those who helped break mental barriers after the end of the Cold War, passed away in London on Thursday morning after a massive heart attack. He was 85 years old and is survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter.
While following the normal career progression of an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) cadre officer, which wound up in the Commerce Ministry, Dr. Hussain was one of the key persons who set the ball rolling for India’s economic liberalisation. He chaired six committees of which the ones on trade and small scale industries are still important reference markers.
A senior trustee of Observer Research Foundation and involved with innumerable organisations when he passed away, Dr. Hussain was made India’s Ambassador to the United States during the tumultuous years of 1990 and 1992 when India had to recast its foreign policy and abandon many beliefs that had become shibboleths.
Dr. Hussain’s stint in diplomacy was preceded by a five-year tenure in the Planning Commission, during which he was honoured with Padma Bhushan for meritorious services.
Of late, he was the Chairman of Ghalib Academy and Vice President of Rumi Foundation, Chancellor of English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, member of a UNESCO panel, Professor Emeritus at several institutes, including the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade and Foreign Service Institute of the Ministry of External Affairs.
A soft-spoken person who grew up in the genteel culture of Hyderabad, Dr. Hussain was the trustee of several educational, cultural and charitable institutions here and abroad.
A person who people loved listening to, Dr. Hussain spoke to The Hindu, in an interview about a decade back, on the need to constantly aspire for knowledge and inventiveness. From his ready stock of mythological allusions, he narrated the story of Dedalus and his son Icarus.
In the original Greek myth, Icarus fell to his death because he flew too high, causing the sun's rays to melt the wax that held the wings to his body. But Dr. Hussain took him as epitomising the pursuit of advanced knowledge.
“Go beyond the limits, come down, work on a better glue. That is the mindset we require,” he said.
“This is what formal education should bestow, and this is what he feels is the essence of Jawaharlal Nehru's exhortation to the nation to develop a scientific temper. That is why I say, while Lakshman knew only the Lakshman Rekha, Ram knew no rekhas,” was his message to The Hindu’s readers.