Birth centenary celebrations for the architect of Indo-Russian relations

Russia wants to celebrate the 100th birth anniversary of T N Kaul, the former Foreign Secretary who was India’s ambassador to the USSR twice and played a crucial role in cementing ties between Moscow and New Delhi.
The Snow Maiden
"A diplomat's diary" by T N Kaul. Source: Press Photo

Russian ambassador in India Alexander Kadakin formally expressed his country’s desire to celebrate the birth centenary of famous Indian diplomat Triloki Nath Kaul.  In a letter to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, the ambassador sought India’s cooperation in remembering the distinguished diplomat, whom he referred to as a man with a multi-faceted personality.

Kadakin has suggested that a series of functions be held in the Russian Centre of Science and Culture in New Delhi to mark the occasion.  T N Kaul served as India’s ambassador to Moscow during the Soviet era, first from 1962 to 1966 and then from 1986 to 1989. The Russian ambassador has also suggested that External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid should inaugurate the event.

Kadakin has tentatively put the date of the inaugural event at November 20.

T N Kaul was born on February 8, 1913 and died on January 16, 2002. The Russian ambassador has also expressed his desire to hold a photo exhibition depicting the life and times of Kaul. He has pointed out in his letter to the MEA that the Russian embassy has selected some 40 photos of Kaul from its archives.

T N Kaul’s role in strengthening Indo-Russian Ties

Kaul performed a pivotal role in shepherding Indo-Russian relations first during the tenure of independent India’s first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru and then taking these ties to an unprecedented high during the prime ministerial tenure of Indira Gandhi.

Rajiv Gandhi also realized Kaul’s importance and sent him again to Moscow as Indian ambassador in 1986 when the Soviet Union was going through tumultuous times.

In his deeply insightful book “Stalin to Gorbachev and Beyond” published in 1991, Kaul himself has mentioned how he had the “unique opportunity” of observing Soviet affairs firsthand during Joseph Stalin’s, Nikita Khrushchev’s, Leonid Brezhnev’s and then Mikhail Gorbachev’s regimes for a total of almost ten years. “I spent three complete years in the USSR during Gorbachev’s regime (1986-89), two during Stalin’s (1947-49) and four in between when Khrushchev and Brezhnev were in power (1962-66). It is an important and interesting period – a part of 20th century history – 45 years out of the 73 after the 1917 Revolution.”

The Americans were wary of T N Kaul. When Indira Gandhi named him as India’s new ambassador to the US in 1973, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the then US ambassador to India, sent a strongly-worded assessment of the “sly” nature of Kaul, latest US diplomatic cables leaked by Wikileaks in April 2013 showed.

Several Indian diplomats, however, shrugged off the remarks and said Moynihan’s comments only showed and proved how effective and successful Kaul was as the architect of the Indo-Russian friendship.

The writer is a New Delhi-based journalist. His Twitter handle is @Kishkindha.  

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