New Delhi: One of the longest serving diplomats in India and an Indophile, Russian ambassador to India, Alexander Kadakin, died here on Thursday following a brief illness. He was 67.
President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi among other dignitaries expressed sadness at the passing away of Kadakin, a "true friend of India".
"He passed away in a New Delhi hospital after a brief illness," it said.
President Pranab Mukherjee, in his condolence, described Kadakin "as a true friend of India."
"Deepest condolences on sad demise of Russia's Ambassador to India, Alexander Kadakin who spent long years here and was true friend of India," the president said in a tweet.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was "deeply saddened" by the death.
"Deeply saddened," Modi tweeted. "He was an admirable diplomat, a great friend of India and a fluent Hindi speaker who tirelessly contributed to stronger India-Russia ties."
External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said in his death India has "lost a valued friend who nurtured India-Russia relationship for many decades as a distinguished Russian diplomat".
The news of the senior diplomat's death came as India was celebrating its 68th Republic Day, and among the highlights of the military prowess on display on Rajpath was the BrahMos missile, built with collaboration with Russia.
A fluent speaker of Hindi, Kadakin was a familiar and friendly face at most official and diplomatic functions. He would amaze many Indians with his good knowledge of Hindi and Indian culture.
During his remarks at a public reception held here some years ago, Kadakin said: "India has entered my life as a second homeland. It has become my karma-bhumi, because I worked here for so many years, my gnyana-bhumi, because I have learnt a lot here, my tapa-bhumi (especially in the hot season), but most importantly - my prem- and maitri-bhumi, because I have given a half of my heart to India and because me personally and the new Russia, which I have the honour to represent as Ambassador for the second time, have millions of good friends here."
Kadakin was instrumental in playing the balancing act between Moscow and New Delhi after India grew markedly closer to the US, and also helped brush away New Delhi's misgivings when Russia began leaning towards Pakistan.
Kadakin had been the Russian ambassador to India since 2009. He was also ambassador to India between 1999 and 2004 and served other diplomatic posts at the embassy for about 10 years. He was a probationer in 1971 in the embassy of erstwhile USSR in India.
Born on July 22, 1949, Kadakin was proficient in English, Hindi, Urdu, French and Romanian. He graduated with honours from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.
Between 1979 and 1985, he worked as Assistant Professor in the Department of Indian Studies at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.
He was associated with Soviet delegations at five sessions of United Nations. Kadakin authored and translated several books form English and Hindi and also wrote articles in in journals and in the media.
The Russian embassy has kept a condolence book at its premises.