V. K. Krishna Menon | Facebook
V. K. Krishna Menon | Facebook
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Considered close to former PM Jawaharlal Nehru, Menon is said to have played a major role in setting up India’s arms industry.

New Delhi: Over four decades after his death, Vengalil Krishnan Krishna Menon, considered the architect of the ‘non-aligned movement’, continues to be remembered as one of India’s most controversial and powerful politician-diplomat.

Saturday marks his 44th death anniversary.

Close to India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Menon was the third defence minister of India, from 1957 till 1962, but was forced to quit after the Sino-Indian War debacle.

However, Menon is recognised to have played a major role in setting up the Indian arms industry with the help of the then Soviet Union.

Noted for his confident, yet arrogant personality, Menon lead India’s diplomatic mission to the United Kingdom as the high commissioner and represented the country in the United Nations.

Early life

Born to a wealthy family in Kerala in 1896, Menon got closely associated with Annie Besant and the Home Rule movement while he was in Madras (now Chennai) for studies. He studied law at the Madras Law College later.

In 1924, Menon, however, left for London to qualify as a teacher. In the British capital, he got involved in politics and became a major proponent of the Indian independence movement in the political circles.

He served as secretary of the India League, a Britain-based organisation working towards campaigns for India’s independence and self-government. He also served as a councillor for 14 years in the London borough of St Pancras as a Labour Party member while the freedom movement in India was at its peak.

Role post independence

Soon after India’s independence in 1947, Menon was sent to the UK as the Indian high commissioner. During his tenure there through 1952, he turned out to be a security threat for the country and was put under heavy surveillance, earning the tag of being Nehru’s ‘evil genius’ in the process.

His term as the high commissioner was also marred by the infamous jeep scandal, when he apparently ignored protocols on the purchase of jeeps for the Indian Army.

As per A New York Times report, it cost India nearly $5,00,000 for substandard materials received as part of the deal. However, his proximity to Nehru protected him.

Also Read: Nehru’s son-in-law Feroze, a crusader, who exposed corruption in his party’s government.

In 1957, Menon set a record for a nearly eight-hour-long speech before the UN Security Council, defending India’s rights to the territory of Kashmir.

Post the 1962 Sino-India war and Nehru’s subsequent death, the Congress party abandoned him. Except Nehru, he failed to cultivate friends or supporters in India’s political establishment.

After his resignation from the Congress in 1967, he fought and lost the elections from a Mumbai constituency. In 1972, however, he won the elections from a Kerala constituency with support from the Left.

He died on 6 October, 1974.

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  1. He was no visionary. He was responsible for our dismal failure to thwart the Chinese aggression in 1962. Thanks to our ill preparedness thousands of brave Indian soldiers perished and the responsibility for the same lie squarely at the doorsteps of Messrs. Menon and Panditji.

  2. VK Krishna Menon was a great visionary and great patriot. He is the best Defense Minister India ever had. India had not produced more honest and competent leader than VK Krishna Menon, after Gandhi and Nehru. For those who could not dare criticize Nehru, Krishna menon was an easy target.

  3. I felt very surprised some years back to see his statue outside Sena Bhavan or in that vicinity. Like rubbing salt on a wound that remains raw after so many years.

    • Statues of all South Indians should be removed. They are indeed insult and rubbing salt on wounded North Indian pride.

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