Monday, November 29, 2010

In Commemoration of P.N. Haksar, a Friend of Bangladesh

In Commemoration of P.N. Haksar, a Friend of Bangladesh
Monaem Sarker
P. N. Haksar
I feel humble to commemorate a distinguished son of India, Parmeshwar Narayan Haksar, diplomat, statesman, architect of the Simla Agreement 1972, an Indian from Kashmir but truly a citizen of the world. Above all, he was great friend of Bangladesh. Ever since the death of Mr. P.N. Hakser on 27 November 1998, I have continued to suffer from a sense of personal loss. I have also felt that it has been a national loss to Bangladesh too. Mr. Haksar was a symbol of humanism. His humane approach brought him the admiration, respect and reverence of every Bangalee who came in contact with him during our liberation war and after.
We have heard time and again from our first Prime Minister Mr. Tajuddin Ahmed and those who worked with him from April to December 1971. They spoke very high of Mr. P.N. Haksar’s special role as Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister of India in the inner councils of decision-making. He fashioned Mrs. Gandhi’s decision about the timing and level of support to be given by India to our liberation struggle. The manner the Bangladesh freedom fighters who had crossed over to India in the face of the West Pakistani military atrocities & wanton massacres unleashed on 25 March 1971 were treated as well as the warmth of India’s relations with the Government set up in Mujibnagar in April 1971 are recognized to reflect the India's finest hour. India's political leadership had succeeded in uniting the country to support Bangladesh Liberation struggle. The diplomacy conducted by India in a world still riven by the cold war had achieved extraordinary success. Mr. Haksar's contribution to that success in widely acknowledged. The wisdom of his counsel, which had urged that unified and co-ordinated efforts by all the pro-liberation forces was essential for victory. Under Indira Gandhi and P.N. Haksar's active guidance Mr. D.P. Dhar played a vital role during the formative stage of our cabinet consultative committee in exile.
D.P. Dhar, India's Ambassador in Moscow was summoned to Delhi in June 1971, and Haksar gave him the brief to reach an agreement on the treaty incorporating the amendments acceptable to the Soviet side but covering the security contingencies India might be facing. PNH followed it up all the way down till it was presented to get the approval of the political affairs committee, a committee of cabinet members, where PNH, P N Dhar and D P Dhar were present just to assist them if required!
In 1971 on 9 August, the Indo-Soviet Treaty for Friendship and Cooperation was signed in New Delhi, which Kissinger subsequently termed as a 'bombshell' in his memoirs. Indeed, the treaty, by agreeing to have joint consultation in the event of a threat from a third party and to take appropriate action to restore peace and security, decisively changed the course of subsequent events. As the reconstruction of history goes on, some writers in recent years play down the threat of collusion perceived by us to the level that the US was using the Pakistani channel to open up to China for its own geopolitical interest. That might well be, but, in addition, there was a darker aspect of that opening too, as Richard Nixon made it clear in his memoirs: "The Chinese played a very cautious role in this period. They had troops poised on the Indian border, but they would not take the risk of coming to the aid of Pakistan by attacking India, because they understandably feared that the Soviet might use this action as an excuse for attacking China. 
Mr. P.N. Hakser's knowledge was encyclopedic. Those who disagreed with him could not fail to admire his deep understanding of complex and complicated issues. During my four years of “exile:” in India from 1975 to 1979. I was very close to him. He advised me to form a Caucus of Friends of Bangladesh in Delhi. Friends of Bangladesh Includes- Sri Manmatha Nath Gupta (Chairman), Prof. Dilip Chakravarty, M.P., Sri Sachindralal Singh, M.P., Sri R. K. Mishra, M.P., Sri K. R. Ganesh, Sri P. N. Haksar, Sri Shashi Bhushan, Sri Ganesh Shukta, Sri Sadhan Mukerjee, Sri Abani Lahiri, Sri D. R. Goyal, Sri Subrata Banerjee (Convenor). First condolence meeting on Bangabandhu was organized by that committee in Gandhi Memorial Hall in New Delhi on 15th August 1976. Many people said to me personally, that the time spent with him had been so rewarding, that one could not get through books & journals. I would like to mention here two letters out of many letters written to me by P.N. Hakser which will depict his respect, love and concern about Bangladesh one in July 14, 1997 & another in 18th March 1998.
                                                                                                                                      Phone : 4673545, 6886149
P. N. HAKSAR                                                                                                                         4/9, Shanti Niketan

                                                                                                                                                 New Delhi- 110 021

Date : July 14, 1997

Dearest Bakul :                                                                                                                                                 
The memory of your two visits to my home still remains with me. I was hoping to see you in Dhaka last year, but it was not to be.
I was very deeply, deeply touched when Abdus Samd Saheb insisted on visiting me in my home in Delhi when he first came here in his capacity as the Foreign Minister in the Government led by Sheikh Hasinaji as the Prime Minister. When she assumed the office after such a long and courageous struggle, I wrote to her a letter. Naturally, I did not  expect her to reply, but I am anxious to know only whether she received it or not.
All the heros of Bangladesh liberation have strutted about on the stage of history and now the curtain has fallen. We can now contemplate the true historical reality when a character called Monaem Sarker acted the part of Bakul.
Are you planning to visit Delhi in the near future? Please do come. I am going to be 84 years old which is 25 years more than the average expectation of life in India.
It breaks my heart when I hear the people of Bangladesh suffer during monsoons, typhoons and cyclones.
Please do convey my warmest regards and best wishes to Sheikh Hasinaji when you meet her as well as to Abdus Samad Saheb.
With my blessings and love.
                                                                                                                    Yours affectionately,
                                                                                                                           P.N. Haksar
Mr. Monaem Sarker
                                                                                                                                 Phone : 4673545, 6886149
P. N. HAKSAR                                                                                                                    4/9, Shanti Niketan

                                                                                                                                             New Delhi- 110 021

Dated : March 18, 1998
Dearest Monaem :
Today is the 18th of March, 1998. On this day, I should be air-borne and moving towards Dhaka and stepping on the sacred soil of Bangladesh. I was so full of excitement of visiting Dhaka after a I apse of more than ¼ of a century. You had made arrangements for my visit with great love and care. But alas!, I find myself grounded in 4/9 Shanti Niketan. I hope that our High Commissioner in Dhaka has explained to you my painful predicament.
Friends of Bangladesh had organised a public meeting yesterday on the occasion of Bangabandhu’s 78th birthday. I could not even attend that. I hope that you will understand the depth of my anguish.
With my blessings and best wishes to you,
                                                                                                                  Yours affectionately,
                                                                                                                          P.N. Haksar
Mr. Monaem Sarker
Director General
Bangladesh Foundation for Development Research
23 Chamelibagh, Dhaka – 1217, Bangladesh
P.N. Haksar, born in 1913, has been called the most distinguished public servant of his generation. After a spell as a barrister at the Allahabad high court (1943-8), he was drawn into the Foreign Service by Nehru. Subsequently, he directed the course of government policies at home and abroad as High Commissioner, Secretary and Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister of India, Mrs Indira Gandhi (1967-73). Later, as Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission and Vice-Chairman of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, he was executive head of the country's planning and R & D structures (1974-7). He continues to be actively associated with institutions concerned with the advancement of knowledge, including the Indian Statistical Institute and several centres of research in the social sciences. P.N. Haksar recreates in India of the 20th century & deftly fashions its flavors and charm and  its first stirring under Nehru & Indira Gandhi. 
The then Prime Minister I. K. Gujral writes in his articles on P.N. Hakser: Governance with social purpose :
" Indira Gandhi had known P.N. Haksar her London days. She discussed his name with some of us in the 'Kitchen Cabinet' as it was called. We did not know Haksar personally since he had spent most of his time serving in the diplomatic missions abroad but we endorsed her choice, when she told us of his political affiliations with the Nehru family. Haksar, as you would know, made his presence felt very soon after entering the high office. He turned, the PM's Secretariat into a power centre and made it a fountainhead of ideas and policies. By then Indira Gandhi had shed off her shyness and uncertain demeanor, while Haksar radicalized her socio-economic policies and centralized authority around her. This was the beginning of a new style of governance that bore close resemblance to the Presidential system. Perhaps this was inevitable, since the political circumstances were radically different than in the Nehruvian era. Nehru, all through the 17 years of his rule did not set up a PM's Secretariat or even a PMO. He was assisted by one secretary, though he occasionally used the senior officials in the MEA for co-ordination. Panditji had several advantages that were unique. His Cabinet comprised of eminent persons who were his comrades in the freedom struggle. They had similar views regarding the socio-economic purpose of governance. Men like Sardar Patel did not require any guidelines from the PMO nor would Maulana Azad, Pant, Kidwai or Ambedkar seek policy directions from any secretary. They were men of colossal dimensions who were masters of their domains. The Cabinet meetings were friendly and harmonious; in a way, these were the replicas of the Congress Working Committee meetings of the past. The style and purpose of governance was to speedily reach the promised destination, since they were conscious of the brevity of the time available to them."
The then President A.P.J. Abul Kalam writes in his article : Developed Nation : the vision:
"I am indeed delighted to give the First P N Haksar Memorial lecture. Despite his great stature in the national scene, I was fortunate to come in contact with him when he was a member of the space commission and visited the satellite launch vehicle integration lab at Thumba, with smoke coming out of his pipe, and with a smiling face, he asked an important question; In satellite launch vehicle programme where does India stand? I looked at Professor Satish Dhawan, the then Chairman, ISRO, and then quickly responded to him saying that when the Rohini Satellite injected SLV-III in earth orbit, we will be the fifth country! "Oh my Nation when you will be the first?". His words - "when my nation will be the first" reverberates in my mind even after nearly 20 years."
17 November 2009

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