The Pass­ing of Giants

IK Gu­jral and KC Pant be­longed to the rare breed of politi­cians who put the na­tion be­fore their ca­reers, re­mem­bers


THE EVIL that men do lives af­ter them; the good is oft in­terred with their bones.” To­day, as our lives get steadily more en­meshed in a never-end­ing present, Shake­speare’s apho­rism has be­come even more im­por­tant to re­mem­ber. Two peo­ple to whom In­dia owes a great deal passed away in the sec­ond fort­night of Novem­ber. They were Kr­ishna Chan­dra Pant, fondly known by his friends and ad­mir­ers as ‘Raja’, and In­der Ku­mar Gu­jral, who felt most com­fort­able when peo­ple sim­ply ad­dressed him by his first name, In­der. In­der was 92, and had been fad­ing slowly. Raja was 81 and at the peak of his men­tal pow­ers when, on the morn­ing of 15 Novem­ber, he sat down in his favourite chair, drank his morn­ing tea, and sim­ply went to sleep.

Death is an oc­ca­sion for mourn­ing. But it is also a time for remembering the life that has been lived. Both th­ese fine men have left us a lot to re­mem­ber. And a lot to cel­e­brate. Gu­jral was In­dia’s prime min­is­ter for only eight months, but in that short pe­riod, he left an in­deli­ble stamp on our for­eign pol­icy. To­day, the world re­mem­bers him mainly as the cre­ator of the Gu­jral Doc­trine. Mark Tully summed it up in The Guardian as fol­lows: “At its heart was the highly sig­nif­i­cant recog­ni­tion that In­dia must treat its neigh­bours more gen­er­ously, and in par­tic­u­lar, no longer in­sist on re­cip­ro­cal mea­sures.” That, of course, was the core of the doc­trine, and Gu­jral ap­plied it within weeks of be­com­ing prime min­is­ter to set­tle the thorny is­sue of how to share the Ganga wa­ters im­pounded by the Farakka bar­rage with Bangladesh. He did this in a man­ner that recog­nised not only Bangladesh’s le­gal rights as the lower ri­par­ian State, but also its far greater need for th­ese wa­ters.

In do­ing so, he not so much set a prece­dent — for that

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