Parmeshwar Narayan Haksar ( 1913-1998 ) was a product of London School of Economics , I say it with conviction that he stands among 100 most Influential intellectuals that shaped Nehruvian India . Here is why I believe so ……
(1)Immediately after partition of the country , From a Career Barrister , he moved to Foreign Services At Nehru’s behest . India’s Non Alignment Policy was essentially a result of so many behind the scene posturing and efforts of this Strategist.
(2) A Tilt towards Socialism and Secularism was implemented by him . Infact he created so many institutions for this purpose.
(3) Abolition of Privy Purse , Nationalization of Banks , Insurance and Foreign oil companies were purely his initiatives. These were born out of his deep rooted belief in Socialistic Framework for India .
(4) Strengthening Public Sector and Ushering an era of a mixed economy for the country were his concepts .
(5) He was the architect of the liberation of Bangladesh, Indo-Soviet Treaty and the Shimla accord with Pakistan. In the period 1967-73, he was Indira Gandhi’s most important and trusted adviser.
(6) His role in creation of institutions like Planning Commission , Indian Statistical Institute , Delhi School of Economics , Sindri fertilizer plant , Industrial Development Bank of India, Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India (now ICICI), Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Indian Council of Agricultural Research , Indian Council of Medical Research, five Indian Institutes of Technology, Indian Institutes of Management, chain of Councils of Social Science, Historical and Philosophical Research Centres , Sahitya, Lalit Kala and Sangeet Natak Akademis and many more remains unparalleled .
(7) Not many people know that Satyajit Ray’s Pather Pancheli was banned initially and not allowed to be taken to International Film Festivals .It was Haksar who pleaded Satyajit Ray’s case to Nehru. To Nehru he wrote , “My wife and I happened to see this film and we were both struck by its beauty. We felt it was the kind of film which should be entered at one of the international film festivals… I was informed that as the film showed India’s poverty, it was not suitable for being entered in foreign film festivals. What is wrong about showing India’s poverty? Everyone knows that we are a poor country. The question is: are we Indians sensitive to our poverty or insensitive to it? Satyajit Ray has shown it with an extraordinary sense of beauty and sensitiveness.” And Nehru Agreed.
(8)He was a connoisseur of Poetry, Music and Art apart from being a voracious reader of Books on Art, History , Poetry and world literature. He combined his love for Sanskrit and the classics in the language, with the capability to read, at an a great deal fast pace. Haksar remained a devoted believer in democracy and the freedom of expression.
(9) It is well known fact that he criticized the suspension of fundamental rights during the Emergency.
(10) He had the courage of conviction to advise Mrs Gandhi to keep Sanjay Gandhi at a proper distance and not allow him to interfere with Country’s Policy planning .
Quotes from his Books and lectures :
“Life demands constant renewal. And our country is crying for renewal – political, economic, cultural and spiritual. Without such a renewal, our diplomats… might be reduced to… seller(s) of anti-earthquake pills of Lisbon.”
“India must not, under any circumstances, add to the stock of political capital of diverse elements in Pakistan’s military, civilian establishments and among the motley combination of political adventurers who play upon Indophobia-mixed Islamic atavism… And finally, the moment of defeat must never be converted into a moment of humiliation.”
“It should be clear to anybody that negotiations ‘from a position of strength’ cannot by their very nature be constructive, since they are intended to impose one’s will… on one’s partner. They rule out the possibility of achieving mutually acceptable, balanced results.”
“ I have been prone to tears throughout my life. Inexpressible joy and sorrow turn into tears. Music evokes tears and so does the residue of incommunicable loneliness. Tears alone relieve that state. And if one can shed them in the presence of someone in whom one reposes confidence and from whom one has an assurance of love, tears make life less of a burden. “
In his article, PNH: Some Memories , K.P.Unnikrishnan writes:
“It is evident that Haksar’s range of reading was wide. Even though his friends estimate his library collection to be of 25,000 books on a variety of themes (from Aristotle and Shakespeare to Iqbal to the Bhagavadgita), his mind was active, not accumulative. Endowed with a remarkable assimilative power, he brought his readings to the majestic trial of his judgment and after weighing and considering these in a detached manner, he would form a fiercely independent opinion unclouded by prejudice or passion.
Haksar’s writings show the multiplicity of his interests in natural science, diplomacy, statecraft, warfare, military strategy, philosophy, religion and poetry. His writings echo eloquently the hopes and aspirations, frustrations and thwarted ambitions, and fears and opportunities lost in an age in which he lived.”
About P.N.Haksar,K.Natwar Singh writes:
“I wish to relate an incident which shows that in Haksar’s company one is never bored and invariably learns something. Once I invited Anatoly Dobrynin, the longest serving Soviet ambassador to the US (24 years), to my house to meet Haksar. Dobrynin had accompanied Gorbachev to Delhi as one of his top foreign policy advisers, second only to Eduard Sheverdnadze. I had given Dobrynin a thumb-nail sketch of the phenomenon called P.N. Haksar – lawyer, diplomat, planner, guru, a Kashmiri pandit uneasy with Brahminical mumbo-jumbo, principal adviser to Mrs Gandhi till 1973, social scientist, public speaker, scholar, author, wit, well versed in Marxist-Leninist thought, a moral fifth column and chief architect of our success in 1971.
As Haksar walked up to greet my Soviet guest, Dobrynin’s opening words were: “I am very glad to meet the man who outwitted Henry Kissinger.” Haksar looked up and, in his most avuncular tone, said: “Am I expected to feel flattered?” That broke the ice.”
Haksar was married to Urmila Sapru daughter of Pandit Dina Nath sapru of Faizabad. Saprus were well off kashmiri Brahmins . Bishmber Narain Sapru Hijr , well known Urdu poet , belonged to this sapru family from Faizabad .P.N. Haksar arrived in Britain to study at the London School of Economics. He was called to the Bar from Lincoln’s Inn in the early 1940s. In London, he was an active member of Krishna Menon’s India League along with other students, which greatly fashioned his socialist political outlook. Some admired Books authored by P N Haksar include :
“One More Life (Delhi: Oxford University Press India, 1990)
Premonitions (Bombay: Interpress, 1979)
Reflections on our Time (Delhi: Lancers, 1982)”
Dr Mulkh Raj Anand , Feroze Gandhi , Krishna Menon were Among his closest friends .
He died a lonely man after he lost his eyesight .He fell out with Mrs Gandhi over many issues essentially interference of Sanjay Gandhi in affairs of Planning commission. He never created any personal assets . Will our History accord some space to this forgotten Intellectual..
Autar Mota is a Blogger , Translator and writes in English , Urdu , Kashmiri and Hindi. His write-ups have appeared in many national magazines and journals.