Kozhikode: Senior MP E. Ahamed, who died on Wednesday, was a rare Indian politician who enjoyed wide personal contacts in the Middle East and used them well when he was a central minister.
The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) leader was also a respected parliamentarian and played a major role in building his party's ties with the Congress in Kerala.
He is survived by a daughter and two sons. His wife died in a car accident in 1999.
And unknown to many, the soft-spoken Ahamed played a role in improving India's ties with the Arab world.
The 78-year-old was regularly elected to the Lok Sabha since 1991. The IUML is the second biggest group in the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala.
A law graduate, Ahamed, who entered politics as a student, was first elected to the Kerala assembly in 1967 and had an uninterrupted stint till 1991 when he contested a Lok Sabha seat.
He became the national President of the IUML on account of his vast experience in Delhi politics.
It was during his stint as Industries Minister from 1982 to 1987 that Kerala saw the first signs of a boost on the industrial front.
He was instrumental in tapping the resources of the cash-rich non-resident Keralites. Today, deposits by non-resident Keralites in banks are estimated at Rs 1.30 lakh crore.
Ahamed led Indian delegations to the UN 10 times -- from 1991 to 2014.
He was the only UDF candidate to be elected to the Lok Sabha in 2004, all the other 19 seats going to the Left Democratic Front.
In July that year, Ahamed made a dramatic television appearance in Arabic following the kidnapping of three Indians in Iraq.
The appeal was broadcast over Iraqi, Kuwaiti and Omani channels and led to the eventual release of the hostages.
Ahamed also played a role in securing the release of the passengers of an Indian Airlines plane hijacked on a flight from Kathmandu to New Delhi.
A close aide told IANS that Ahamed's closeness with top leaders in Saudi Arabia turned out to be useful for New Delhi.
"Ahamed was close to (then) Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee too," said a source.
Former diplomat T.P. Sreenivasan told IANS that Ahamed was one politician who had excellent contacts with numerous top leaders in the Middle East.
Soon after his 2004 victory, Ahamed became the first IUML leader to be appointed in the union cabinet and served a second stint when the UPA-II government assumed office in 2009.
It was this long stint in the Lok Sabha that helped the MP to become a vital link between the IUML and the Congress leadership, including Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
The Kerala government declared Wednesday a holiday in Malappuram district for all educational institutions as a mark of respect to Ahamed.
His funeral will be held at his hometown in Kannur on Thursday.