Within days of taking over, he has managed to touch base with over a dozen of his counterparts
In just over 10 days after taking over as External Affairs Minister, Salman Khurshid has managed to touch base with over a dozen of his counterparts and a clutch of Prime Ministers, setting a much more hectic pace of interactions than his predecessor S.M. Krishna, who met his counterparts at a much more stately speed while attending multilateral conferences.
Currently in Vientiane, Laos, for the Asia Europe Mechanism, Mr. Khurshid was especially sought by the Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, who wanted to put in a word about Rome’s discomfiture over the trial in Kerala of two Italian Navy marines for allegedly killing two unarmed Indian fishermen. The External Affairs Minister, however, put the onus for deciding on the trial of the marines on the courts.
In the meeting with the Denmark Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Mr. Khurshid pressed for the extradition of alleged Purulia arms dropping case accused Kim Davy to India. Ms. Thorning-Schmidt, however, stonewalled Mr. Khurshid’s demand, proposing a re-examination of the issue and then holding talks with New Delhi.
Mr. Khurshid also met his counterparts from Switzerland, Norway, New Zealand and Hungary, besides German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who wanted an early free trade pact with the European Union. A meeting with Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni led to the two going through the bilateral relations checklist and Mr. Khurshid agreed to visit Dhaka next year for the Joint Consultative Committee meeting.
It also helped that Mr. Khurshid began his innings as External Affairs Minister with two multilateral conferences in quick succession. Like the ASEM meet, the earlier conference on Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) hosted in Gurgaon helped him meet several of his counterparts from East Africa such as Professor Samson Ongeri (Kenya), Jean-Paul Adam (Seychelles) and Pierrot Jocelyn Rajaonarivelo (Madagascar). Having studied in India, Mr. Ongeri had explored the possibility of more training spots, while Seychelles, which has seen pirates raiding ships in its vicinity, wanted India to beef up its surveillance potential by contributing one more Dornier aircraft to its fleet.
The meeting also helped him make his introductions with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris who had battled Colombo’s opponents at his country’s Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council.
Back home, he will interact with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who was in Vientiane along with Mr. Khurshid. But both will sit across the table in New Delhi with a full complement of diplomats for a more structured discussion than would have been possible in Vientiane.
Though Britain is considered among the big ones in diplomacy, Mr. Khurshid is yet to formally meet the old-timers on the international circuit about whom he spoke wistfully at the IOR-ARCconference. They include Sergei Lavorv of Russia, Yang Jiechi of China, Antonio Patriota of Brazil, South Africa’s Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and Ali Akbar Salehi of Iran. But he did get to speak over phone to one of them — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — who, however, will no longer be a Minister in the next U.S. administration.