NYT profile of Zakaria, Desi foreign policy & wine maven...

Rohit Khare rohit at ics.uci.edu
Fri Apr 11 15:59:05 PDT 2003

Definitely a desi to watch... I've only heard him speak once, but he's 
also got the voice and presence to match... good luck to him, not least 
because I broadly agree with his writings. Haven't looked at his latest 
book, however, on "Illiberal Democracy", but I'll let you know when I 
do... RK

"Fareed Zakaria, one of the most brilliant young writers, has produced 
a fascinating and thought-provoking book on the impact of Western 
constitutional principles on the global order."
— Henry Kissinger


September 24, 1999

NY Times: At 34, Worldly-Wise and on His Way Up
By Elisabeth Bumiller

On the wall of Fareed Zakaria's office hangs a great trophy of his 
trade: an autographed copy of George F. Kennan's historic ''X'' 
article, published in 1947 in Foreign Affairs, that first articulated 
America's policy of Soviet containment. Nearby is a signed copy of 
Henry A. Kissinger's ''Reflections on American Diplomacy,'' published 
in 1956 in Foreign Affairs, which launched the would-be Secretary of 
State as a public intellectual.

And alongside that, in case one does not yet get the picture, is a 
signed copy of ''The Bent Twig'' by Isaiah Berlin, published in 1972 in 
Foreign Affairs, which became a prophetic treatise on the rise of 
nationalism in the Third World.

''I got him to sign it a month before he died,'' Mr. Zakaria said.

In short, no one should ever doubt Mr. Zakaria's sense of history, or 
his desire to be a part of it.

In 1993, at the age of 28, he became the youngest managing editor of 
Foreign Affairs, taking over the No. 2 spot at the nation's premier 
foreign policy journal. Six years later, he is spinning comfortably in 
the innermost orbits of America's foreign policy establishment. He has 
published a book on the United States' origins as a global power, is at 
work on another about ''democracy everywhere, past, present, future,'' 
and is a columnist for Newsweek.

And although it is still too early for him to be flown down to Texas to 
advise the Presidential candidate George W. Bush -- Mr. Zakaria says he 
likes moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats -- it is not too 
early for him to know everyone who has. Condoleezza Rice, Mr. Bush's 
chief foreign policy adviser, calls him ''intelligent about just about 
every area of the world.''

But there is an obstacle. Mr. Zakaria is still a citizen of his native 
India, though now in the final stages of becoming a naturalized 
American -- a move that he sees as inevitable but also central to his 
acceptance inside a campaign, and certainly a White House. And although 
he is following in the footsteps of two other immigrant-diplomats, Mr. 
Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, he does not come out of a European 

''I don't think anyone ever imagined that in the next decade or so 
there could be a national security adviser from India,'' said Leslie H. 
Gelb, president of the Council on Foreign Relations (publisher of 
Foreign Affairs) and a former columnist for The New York Times. ''This 
is in the realm of possibility.'' (Mr. Zakaria smiled, carefully, at 
Mr. Gelb's pronouncement. ''Les has a certain set of ambitions for 
me,'' he said.)

Mr. Zakaria's traditions, like those of a lot of upper-class Indians, 
are in fact more Westernized than Americans might suspect. ''I found 
myself, at a fairly young age, intellectually more at home in the 
West,'' said Mr. Zakaria during a two-hour talk this week in his small 
office just off Park Avenue at the Council on Foreign Relations, where 
he said at least twice that he had no connection to the Bush campaign 
and seemed most worried about sounding arrogant.

''I also think I grew up in an India that's vanishing,'' he said. ''The 
secular, somewhat Anglicized India of the 1960's and 1970's is giving 
way to a much more authentic, Indian India . But it's not an India I 
feel that comfortable in.''

Mr. Zakaria grew up on Malabar Hill, Bombay's Bel Air, in a big house, 
Rylestone, where his parents held Urdu poetry readings and had plenty 
of space for him to play cricket out back. His father, Rafiq Zakaria, 
was deputy leader of the ruling Congress Party under Prime Minister 
Indira Gandhi. His mother, Fatma Zakaria, was the Sunday editor of the 
The Times of India.

Rylestone, built during the Raj for a British high court judge, bustled 
in the evenings with writers, artists and politicians. During the day, 
Mr. Zakaria received a classical English education at the Cathedral 
School, where 800 Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims ''would gather together and 
sort of lustily sing 'Nearer My God to Thee.' ''

Mr. Zakaria went to Yale, fell in love with America and abandoned 
England as any kind of spiritual home. ''You can't penetrate English 
culture -- you can admire it,'' he said. ''Whereas in America, there's 
absolutely no sense of that.''

After receiving a doctorate in political science from Harvard in 1993, 
Mr. Zakaria was quickly hired by James Hoge, the editor of Foreign 
Affairs, plunging into life at the council on East 68th Street. 
''People think of America as a strongly materialistic culture,'' Mr. 
Zakaria said. ''But it really isn't. There's an extraordinarily vital 
intellectual life here.'' It's not that people aren't interested in 
politics, he added, but ''it's a big, vast country where the stakes are 
''In India, politics can be about life and death if you're on the wrong 
side of an issue.''

Yesterday, predictably, CNN had him assessing Mr. Bush's foreign policy 
speech at the Citadel, which Mr. Zakaria praised as ''smart, 
hard-headed Republican internationalism'' and ''not a crazy, let's go 
all over the world and spread democracy and justice'' screed.

Mr. Zakaria is married to a jewelry designer and has a 3-month-old baby 
boy. He is wine columnist for Slate, the Internet magazine, speaks and 
dresses elegantly, but has an American approachability and a very 
specific American fantasy. ''The immigrant in me,'' he said, ''wants to 
go off to some Northeastern dock and sail off in topsiders and a polo 

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