Kadakin, one of the original Indophiles, died in harness on Jan 26, 2017

NEW DELHI: It was only befitting that the Indian government decided to announce second highest civilian award (Padma Bhushan) on Thursday night for former Russian Ambassador to Delhi Alexander Kadakin on the eve of his maiden death anniversary.

Kadakin, one of the original Indophiles, died in harness on Jan 26, 2017. Months after his demise the Modi government also decided to name a road in city's diplomatic zone after Kadakin, who often mentioned that India was his Karmabhoomi.

When the trend for foreign missions in Delhi is to have Indian-origin diplomats as ambassadors and senior officials, Kadakin could have easily been mistaken as an Indian diplomat in the Russian mission, for his mastery over Hindi, Indian politics and society.

Kadakin was among the last of the original 'Indophile' diplomats who stood out. Beginning his career as a junior diplomat in the then USSR embassy in Delhi in 1971, during the hey-days of Indo-Soviet friendship, Kadakin made India his second home. He served twice as ambassador here, during 1999-2004 and again from 2009 until his death. In between, he was Russia's envoy to Sweden.

Known for his wit, humuor and plain speaking, Kadakin had seen it all: Indo-Soviet bonds during the Cold War period, bilateral relations post disintegration of the USSR and the launch of Indo-Russian annual summit from 2000, the first of such of such exercises for India. One of his last quotable quotes was "Pakistan-occupied Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir" that came after Moscow supported India's surgical strikes across the Line of Control after the Uri attack. Few would disagree that Kadakin had immense passion for further improvement in Indo-Russian ties, notwithstanding Delhi's growing proximity to the US.

Kadakin knew generations of Indian politicians, from Swaran Singh to Indira Gandhi to Rajiv Gandhi to Atal Bihari Vajpayee and now Narendra Modi, striking deep bonds with many of them. A little known fact is that he was the interpreter for Leonid Brezhnev when the Russian leader visited India during the 1970s.

Hindi was not his only forte as Kadakin spoke English, Urdu, Romanian and French with ease. Over the years, he dared to hum quite a few classic Bollywood songs of the 1950s, rather effortlessly, and mastered the art of understanding the machinations of Lutyens' Delhi and weathering storms such as the protests over the Russia-backed Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant.

He batted for Russia as much as he did for India during his stints in Delhi. When in Russia during his interlude years, he was interpreting into Hindi for any summit or visit by a leader from India, besides being an adviser to the Russian government on India.

Between 1989 and 1992, Kadakin served as the minister counselor of the USSR-Russia to India. He was also the Russian ambassador to Nepal from 1992 to 1997 and this helped him to maintain contacts in Delhi.