London: London-based Indian diplomat Amitav Banerji was conferred one of the highest awards of Cyprus – Commander of the Order of Merit – at a ceremony at the Cypriot high commission in London. In 1990, Banerji, once tipped as a future foreign secretary of India, was seconded from the Indian Foreign Service to the Commonwealth Secretariat for three years. He remained there for 25 years. In the final six years of his stint, he held the key post of political director.
Presenting the award on Tuesday night, Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said: “If one was to take a poll amongst diplomats who have dealt with the Commonwealth in the last 25 years, in naming a single person from officials in the Secretariat that has made an impact in the Organisation, my guess would be that Amitav’s name would rank very high on the pecking order, if not at the peak.”
“Amitav represents the true embodiment of the Commonwealth values and principles, which he strived to promote and safeguard in our respective countries for 25 years”
“I cannot think of anyone more fitting to receive the award of the Commander of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Cyprus than Amitav Banerji,” he added.
The Commonwealth, with 53 members including India, is the largest association of countries after the United Nations. Banerji is credited with the formulations of the Commonwealth’s Harare Declaration, the Millbrook Action Programme and the Commonwealth Charter. He was closely associated with 12 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGMs), including the one in Cyprus in 1993.