Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Menon, Vengalil Krishnan Krishna (1896–1974)

Indian nationalist, champion of the Non-Aligned Movement, and Indian foreign minister (1957–1962). Born on 3 May 1896 in Calicut, the son of a well-to-do lawyer, V. K. Krishna Menon would play a crucial role in the early formulation and implementation of India's foreign policy. He studied law at University College, London, and in 1934 obtained an MA degree from the London School of Economics. In Britain, beginning in 1924, he became an indefatigable lobbyist for Indian independence, working mainly through the India League. It was largely due to his ceaseless lobbying efforts that Britain's Labour Party became sympathetic to the cause of Indian independence.

Menon was a close confidant of India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. The Non-Aligned Movement in which he, with Nehru, became an important player was an instrument for negotiated peace settlements in a number of Cold War conflicts. In 1947 Menon became the first high commissioner for India in London, in which post he remained until 1952. Effectively his country's ambassador, he devised a formula that enabled India to be a member of the Commonwealth while being a republic.

As the head of the Indian delegation to the United Nations (UN) from 1952 to 1956, Menon achieved notable success. During the Korean War (1950–1953), the Indochina War (1946–1954), and the Suez Crisis (1956), Menon, in a series of informal discussions with the belligerents' representatives, succeeded to a large extent in bringing about settlements between the opposing parties. He took passionate stances in favor of disarmament and decolonization, causes to which he was deeply committed. He also spoke in favor of admitting the People's Republic of China (PRC) to the UN.

Menon was appointed minister without portfolio with cabinet rank in 1956. In 1957 he won a seat in the lower house of the Indian Parliament, whereupon Nehru appointed him minister of defense, a position he held until 1962 when he resigned in the aftermath of the Sino-Indian War, which was a defeat for India. Menon's career never recovered from this blow, and he occupied himself with academics and law until his death on 6 October 1974 in New Delhi.

Amrita Singh


Further Reading
Brecher, Michael. India and World Politics: Krishna Menon's View of the World. London: Oxford University Press, 1968.; Chakravarty, Suhash. Krishna Menon and the India League. 2 vols. New Delhi: Har Anand, 1997.; Varley, K. T. V. K. Krishna Menon and India's Foreign Policy. Delhi: Indian Publishers Distributors, 2002.
 

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