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Posted on Feb 27, 07:39PM | IANS
By Arun Kumar, Washington, Feb 27 : Hardeep Singh Puri, one of India's most outstanding diplomats who long played a key role for his country on the world's high tables, bids farewell Thursday to the Indian Foreign Service after 39 years.
"All that I can tell you is that I enjoyed every minute of this long innings," said Puri, India's permanent representative at the UN for the last four years, who in a manner of speaking was born into diplomacy.
"I did not join the ministry of external affairs in 1974, as the record shows. I actually was born into the ministry because my father was also a civil servant," he quipped in an interview with IANS from New York.
"I have witnessed at close quarters the kind of transformation that has taken place" in the "young service of a young country" since independence in 1947, said Puri, a Delhi University alumni who briefly worked as a lecturer at Delhi's St. Stephen's College.
He recalled how back in 1956 he, as a four-year-old boy, and a younger brother just a few months old, travelled with his parents first by train to Mumbai and then by ship to Naples on their way to Belgrade, where his diplomat father had been posted.
"We were still on the high seas when my father received a telegram saying that he had been diverted from Belgrade to Bonn," Puri said illustrating how Indian diplomats then undertook arduous long journeys to take postings with no provision for children's education or medical coverage.
As his father was posted in places where there was no English language education, Puri and his brother studied in boarding schools in India and "did very well in spite of all that" and qualified for the foreign service. Puri hasn't really looked back since then.
"So I really leave with a sense of great satisfaction - both professional and personal," said Puri, commending a career in the Indian Foreign Service to aspiring young professionals for "the sheer enormity, the sheer breadth of experience" and the "fantastic opportunity" that it provides.
The next chapter in the life of the veteran diplomat, who has served as India's permanent representative in both Geneva and New York, literally begins with a book that he plans to pen come March after a few months of "total switch-off."
The first draft of his book on the Doctrine of Responsibility and on Libya should be out by May, said Puri voicing his belief that "a book is either written in one go or not written at all."
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)