Strategic guru and thinker K. Subrahmanyam is dead (Third Lead)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

NEW DELHI - K. Subrahmanyam, the pre-eminent security and foreign policy analyst who played a key role in shaping the government and public thinking on key issues and helped draft India’s nuclear doctrine, died here Wednesday, leaving behind many admirers in the country’s strategic and diplomatic community.

Subrahmanyam was 82 when he breathed his last Wednesday at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). He had recovered from cancer but then fell victim to lung and cardiac problems from which he did not recover.

He is survived by his wife, three sons and a daughter. His middle son, S. Jaishankar, is India’s ambassador to China and is expected to be back in New Delhi Thursday.

Sources close to the family said the cremation is likely to take place Friday.

A former civil servant - he was topper of the 1950 IAS batch - Subrahmanyam was of that rare breed who was completely devoted to strategic thinking to elevate India’s place in the global discourse.

He refused a Padma Bhushan in 1999, saying bureaucrats and journalists should not accept awards.

The most respected voice in India on global security affairs, Subrahmanyam was the chairman of prime minister’s Task Force on Global Strategic Developments at the time of his death.

He was also the convenor of the National Security Advisory Board and tirelessly championed the India-US nuclear deal when it was bogged down in domestic political debates.

A former director of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), an institute he nurtured and brought to international renown as a think-tank on strategic and security matters, he was the doyen of the Indian strategic community and consulted by every government on issues of foreign policy and international security.

Subrahmanyam’s incisive writings continue to stimulate and contribute to the thinking of strategic analysis and policy makers in this vital area of national concern. We look forward to many more years of active contribution from this doyen of the strategic community in India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said Nov 11, 2005, on the 40th anniversary of IDSA’s founding.

Subrahmanyam headed the Kargil Review Committee and submitted a voluminous report on security lapses and remedies during the 1999 military confrontation between India and Pakistan.

Subrahmanyam also leaves behind a wide network of admirers and friends in the diplomatic and strategic community. His commentaries in newspapers and interviews on television were followed with considerable interest and lent the Indian perspective to important national and international issues impinging on national security.

In his condolence message, Vice-President Hamid Ansari described Subrahmanyam as “one of the key architects of the country’s security policy doctrine.”

“He was instrumental in sensitising policy makers and citizenry to strategic issues and helping formulation of policy options to tackle them,” Ansari, a former diplomat, said in his tribute.

“His regular writings in newspapers simplified complex subjects to the lay public and will be sorely missed,” he said.

Ansari pointed out that as convenor of the first National Security Advisory Board, Subrahmanyam was instrumental in the drafting of India’s nuclear doctrine.

“His loss is immeasurable. He was a pioneer in nurturing this awareness about national security,” Uday Bhaskar, director of National Maritime Foundation, a think tank, who had worked closely with Subrahmanyam for decades, told IANS.

“He represented the first attempt in trying to introduce strategic thinking in India and to think about these issues in an objective and non-partisan way,” he said.

A commemorative book (festschrift) in honour of Subrahmanyam, with essays by Indian and American policy experts, academics and journalists, was published in 2004 to mark his 75th birthday.

The IDSA instituted an annual “K Subrahmanyam Award” for contributions to strategic affairs in 2007.

A prolific writer and columnist, he authored and co-authored over a dozen books, including “The Liberation War” (1972) with Mohammed Ayoob about the Bangladesh liberation war, “Nuclear Myths and Realities” (1980), “India and the Nuclear Challenge” (1986), “The Second Cold War” (1983) and “Superpower Rivalry in the Indian Ocean” (1989) with Selig S. Harrison.

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