The Biography of Famous Personalities of India will tell you about the controversies, the dark sides of a person that you may have never heard of.
Radhakrishnan As A Diplomats and A Vice President
Radhakrishnan As A Diplomats
Dr. Radhakrishnan was an excellent academician and his becoming a politician was an accident. In the days of the British Raj, he never took special interest in politics. He did not play any role in the freedom struggle of India. But he had patriotism and nationalism ingrained in him and despite the fact that he did not directly involve himself in power politics, he always showed interest in world politics. That is why when the first Prime Minister of free India Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru decided to improve relationship with Soviet Union, he began to find a new Ambassador to assume the office in Moscow.
He wanted a person who was well known internationally but was not a politician, who held broad nationalist and humanist views and also was outspoken on the necessity in India of Social aid economic change. He had deep faith in Indian tradition but had a modern mind. Dr. Radhakrishnan at that time, seemed to be the best choice. So, on 16 April 1949, Nehru requested Radhakrishnan to take up the Moscow post. Although many people considered this appointment odd and undesirable as Dr. Radhakrishnan was a idealistic philosopher and a tea- tottaler and seemed to be unfit. In a land of “dialectical materialism”, Pt. Nehru was inclined to appoint him.
Dr. Radhakrishnan accepted the appointment but he wanted to retain his Professorship of comperative religion at Oxford along with Ambassadorship. The Government of India readily agreed to it and Nehru said at one of the farewell functions: “Radhakrishnan goes as the symbol of India.”
As Russians were keen to have friendship with India, Radhakrishnan was welcomed wholeheartedly in Moscow and was received by Kalinin, the Head of the Soviet State after his arrival in Moscow. As an Ambassador, Dr. Radhakrishnan met Marshal Stalin and impressed him at their very first meeting. Later on, Stalin said, about Dr. Radhakrishan. “He is not a narrow patriot. His heart bleeds for the suffering humanity.”
Radhakrishnan had not visited the Soviet Union earlier and the authorities there were clearly intrigued by Radhakrishnan. He was quite different from any other diplomat ever sent to Moscow. Although he could very easily blend the Eastern and Western thoughts, he was “essentially an Indian to the tips of his fingers.” In Moscow he continued to wear Indian dress except for a fur coat, fur cap and fur boots to suit the climate of Moscow.
His life at Moscow, was well-organized and self-sufficient life. The Russians were undoubtedly impressed as he was the most unconventional diplomat. He was reluctant in attending many parties which were an unavoidable part of a diplomat’s life. Dr. Radhakrishnan never compromised with his routine and used to go to bed at exactly ten o’clock. He always said,”
Early to bed and early to rise, make a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Yet he proved to be very successful as an Ambassador in Moscow. The secret of his success was his personality. He was an intelligent philosopher who had courage to be truly himself. His sincerity and detachment made him very popular among the Russians. He clarified that he had come to Moscow to convey his government’s desire to strengthen good relations between the two countries. He worked hard to understand Soviet policies and made the Soviet authorities understand India’s policies. As a diplomat, he conducted his office efficiently and did full justice to his post. While in Moscow, he visited Oxford thrice a year and he very successfully combined Oxford and Moscow philosophy and diplomacy.
Dr. Radhakrishnan created the atmosphere for the free growth of Indo-Soviet relations. Although he did not have the usual graces and poses of professional diplomat, his personality “proved irresistible, because it reflected the personality of India herself, at once old and young, ancient and modern, secular and spiritual, conservative and revolutionary, blending the knowledge of our nuclear era with the wisdom of the Vedic age.”
Radhakrishnan’s arrival in Moscow coincided with a new phase in the cold war. At that time both superpowers were suspicious about the other countries and found it difficult to distinguish their friends from foes. But Russia welcomed India’s independence and Radhakrishnan, by his gracious personality, strengthened the relations between the two countries. Pt. Nehru appreciated Radhakrishnan’s success in Moscow and requested him to stay on for another year.
He said, “I think you (Radhakrishnan) are performing a great service there and it would be a great pity if you come away at this critical juncture.” Thus, Radhakrishnan completed his term of office as the Indian Ambassador in April 1952. The Soviet Administration always recognized his crucial role in developing Indo-Soviet understanding and so did Pt. Nehru. According to Pt. Nehru, Radhakrishnan had carried the job assigned to him “with marked success.”
Radhakrishnan As A Vice President
When Radhakrishnan returned to India, he was chosen as the Vice-Presidental nominee. He was reluctant to accept the Vice-Presidentship as the office required no more than presiding over the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Parliament and discharging the functions of the president when he was ill or absent or the post was vacant. To Radhakrishnan, the post was not worthwhile and he did not want to give up the chair at Oxford for such a limited role. But on Ft. Nehru’s assurance that the role of Vice-President would be expanded, he accepted the nomination and was elected unopposed. He held his
office with great dignity. Although he stressed that “he was no more than a member of the government on the decorative side,” Pt. Nehru was to provide him extra powers to exercise influence on the domestic scene. When a person assumes a high office, he achieves fame but the office of the Vice-President became famous when Radhakrishnan assumed it. During his tenure as a VicePresident, he became very close to Pt. Nehru and their association was based on appreciation of each other’s achievement. There was no tension or rivalry between them and they enjoyed each other’s company.
On education, Nehru regarded Radhakrishnan as the greatest authority of India. Radhakrishnan was also of service to the Prime Minister in internal politics. In 1952, he visited Kashmir twice to talk to Sheikh Abdullah and conveyed to the Prime Minister Abdullah’s fears and hopes. He was a peace lover and peace maker. In the South, when an agitation for a separate province developed in the Andhra districts, Radhakrishnan suggested solution of the problem to Nehru and thus the formation of an Andhra Province out of the Telugu areas took place. Being an able administrator, he was able to provide effective leadership to the Rajya Sabha.
On January 3, 1953, the University of Harvard awarded him with the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws which was recommended by the University Council representing all faculties of the University. While awarding him the degree, the President of the University said,” you are today the world’s most distinguished and inspiring example of the philosopher who has become a statesman and in your exercise of function of philosopher statesman, you have become a world peace-maker of the highest human significance.”
Radhakrishnan was elected the Vice-Chairman of the Sahitya Academy set up in 1954 of which Nehru was the Chairnman but he always sought Radhakrishnan’s opinion. He was conferred the Honorary Degree of German in 1955, Master Wisdom in 1957 in Mangolia and Goethe Plaguette in 1959. Radhakrishnan was also awarded Bharata Ratna, the highest Civil decoration in India in 1954.
One of the major duty of Vice President was to preside the sessions of the Rajya Sabha which Radhakrishnan disliked but still he attended all the sessions and during his ten years as the Chairman, he hardly missed the session even when running high temperature. He was a great success as Chairman although he didn’t quite like the job. Thus Radhakrishnan was busy while representing as Vice-President of the Government of India.
Still he found time for creative writing and in 1955, two works of Radhakrishnan were published, “Recovery of Faith” and “East and West”. In both these books, he asserted that “the fundamental need of the world, for deeper than any social, political or economic readjustment, was a spiritual reawakening.” The religion, according to him, could give which science and humanity could not but religion should not be based on dogma or historic events.
Radhakrishnan also went on a two month’s goodwill tour of European countries and also African countries between June-July 1956, as the Prime-Minister Pt. Nehru was keen that as Vice-President, he should travel almost as much abroad as in India. He said, “With his broad outlook and his general understanding both of the position in India and the world situation, his visit should prove helpful.”
In 1956, he received the Honorary Professorship of Moscow University. He visited Singapore, Indonesia, Japan and China during September-Qctober, 1956. In 1 957, he went on a three week tour of China, Mangolia and Hong-Kong. He visited U.S.A and also attended East- West Philosopher Conference in Honululu. In July 1959, he attended P.E.N Congress in Germany. In January 1960, he went to England and Scandinavia. He attended UNESCO Conference in Paris in November, 1960.
His visits to foreign countries helped in renewing India’s friendship with those countries. The Prime Minister was very pleased with the results of his visits. Everywhere Radhakrishan went, he stressed that “with faith, forbearance and flexibility, the world could be made a better place.” His speech at UNESCO made the people realize that he was a “great transition figure,” with a highly developed spiritual sense and an equally developed social sense. Thus his missions abroad received standing ovations and triggered the hope that his speeches would have some influence on the world at large.
Within India there was the same routine-working on the translating of the Brahma Sutra;* presiding over the Rajya Sabha, speeches in various parts of country stressing higher levels of thought and conduct. In 1956, his wife died which was a great shock for him. But soon he immersed himself in official life again.
His first term of office came to an end in August 1957 and Pt. Nehru wanted him to continue as VicePresident for a second term. Although Radhakrishnan was tired of being minor royalty, he accepted the second term as he could not refuse Pt. Nehfu to whom he was quite close. The Prime-Minister expressed his happiness and gratitude at the decision.
During his second term, he visited many countries and there were invitations also from other countries “where, whatever the state of official relations with India, Radhakrishnan was an acceptable personality.” He also welcomed foreign delegates and was a perfect host for the delegation visiting India. During his tenure, the Chinese delegation accompanying Chou-En-Lai arrived in New Delhi on April 19, 1960.
In 1961, President Brezhnev visited India. As Dr. Rajendra Prasad, President of India, was not available at that time, Radhakrishnan welcomed him on behalf of India and further consolidated the relations between India and Soviet Union. He said in his speech, “We are working so hard for the purpose of building up a human society where each human individual will have the liberty to grow to his fullest extent.”
Thus Dr. Radhakrishnan successfully completed his two terms as the Vice-President with rare dignity and reputation. With his wit and good nature, he always made otherwise dreary proceedings in Rajya Sabha, very interesting. As someone said about him, ” …………….. we know the House has its own dignity. But then for the creation of that prestige and dignity, the present Vice-President has played an important role.”