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 Tribute to Menon

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I met Menon when he was no longer the Defence Minister at an evening party in Delhi. I was introduced to him by a friend who knew him. I had just returned from Pakistan. Menon in his usual style asked me whether I had come on a Pakistani visa. I told him that I was an Indian and there was no need to come on a Pakistani visa to India. He laughed and said that he was just joking. V.P. Ramachandran, known in journalistic and political circles as VPR, an ardent admirer of Krishna Menon, writes his memories of Menon.

It was the beginning of the sixties. India was still a young democracy run under the benevolent command of Nehru. At that time the Defence portfolio was in a neglected condition and the absence of an able minister was clearly being experienced.

To tackle this situation Prime Minister Nehru appointed VK Krishna Menon to undertake the task of putting the forces into a shape and creating a proper military structure.  He did manage to do a fair amount of good work in the Defence Ministry although some army generals did not like his method of functioning. He did however upgrade the production side of the Indian defence priority. India was heavily dependent on imports of nearly all defence items and Krishna Menon reduced the imports by trying to have them manufactured at home. History would bear this out but it was still slow going.

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Jawaharlal Nehru and V.K. Krishna Menon at the United Nations, New York on 21 December 1956

I was not in India most of the time when Menon was active in New Delhi as I was posted in Pakistan as the PTI correspondent for six years. On my return I was posted in Assam to cover the Indo-China conflict which ended in a major border war between the two countries.

That Himalayan blunder unraveled the Nehru-Menon relationship.

India was not expecting a China attack and the army had not made any preparation to defend the Chinese attack. Also, an ambitious Indian General who had hoped to take over from Nehru also got into the mix and overstepped his brief. As a result India suffered the worst defeat and the rightist leaders and the media criticised Krishna Menon and Nehru for the neglect of the Indian army which led to its defeat. The criticism was so strong that Krishna Menon  submitted his resignation to prevent any embarrassment to Nehru .

I met Krishna Menon when he was no longer the Defence Minister at an evening party in Delhi. I was introduced to him by a friend who knew him. I had just returned from Pakistan. Krishna Menon in his usual style asked me whether I had come on a Pakistani visa. I told him that I was an Indian and there was no need to come on a Pakistani visa to India. He laughed and said that he was just joking.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan handing over the bust of VK Krishna Menon in Kozhikode, Kerala.

I rarely met him although on two occasions  he called me on the phone requesting me to get newsprint to help out two small newspapers in Kerala. Those days newsprint was in short supply and the Government allotted newsprint to newspapers. Newsprint was very expensive to buy in the black market and it was almost unaffordable for small newspapers to get any.

I knew the section in the Press Information Bureau dealing with allocation of newsprint to newspapers. I approached them to help out the two newspapers from Kerala.  As a result the Government did allot them a small quota but it was not sufficient for their requirements.

I rarely met Krishna Menon in his house. When he took seriously ill in 1974 I visited him in the hospital. He spoke very little. His condition was critical and he died eventually in the hospital.

(V.P. Ramachandran, known  in journalistic and political circles as VPR  is an ardent admirer of Krishna Menon)