|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
Discuss | Email | Print | Get latest news on your desktop
Kudos to the two scientists who have made India proud
February 03, 2009
There are many things in common between Dr Kakodkar and Dr Nair -- rural origin, robust scientific background, similarity in training and employment, known scientific accomplishments in crucial sectors, masterly leadership of institutions in their respective areas (BAARC and VSSC) remaining in their respective states (Maharashtra and Kerala [Images]) for the most part and so on.
But the point of interest for me is that both of them played a significant role in Vienna [Images] during my own time in the Austrian capital. In my work in Vienna, I had more to do with Dr Kakodkar and Dr Nair than with my own colleagues in the ministry of external affairs.
The fact that they were highly regarded, personable and purposeful was a factor of extreme importance in my role in Vienna as the permanent representative of India to the United Nations. Their work beyond Vienna may have won them laurels now, but their work in Vienna was also worthy of approbation and emulation.
I met the previous Chairman, Dr R Chidambaram, in Vienna in his new incarnation as the scientific adviser to the prime minister and as a universally acknowledged authority on nuclear energy, but he did not involve himself in the work of the IAEA Board, which he had once chaired. Dr Kakodkar's scientific knowledge and understanding of Indian interests were to be expected, but his global perspective and diplomatic skills astonished me.
The division of labour between the chairman and governor was that the former would take care of the scientific aspects, while the latter would deal with diplomatic and political issues, but he was as much helpful to me in tackling delicate diplomatic issues as in dealing with the science of the atom.
In the process, I must have given the impression that he is the bomb man of India. This would be a great compliment in the national context, but in Vienna, this could convey the wrong message as the emphasis there is on peaceful uses of atomic energy rather than its lethal uses.
In his response, Dr Kakodkar stressed his experience in peaceful uses of the atom rather than the bomb, applying the necessary corrective without contradicting me. I thought that it was a master stroke.
But inputs from our nuclear scientific community in Mumbai [Images] were crucial for me to respond to the issues before the board. Dr Kakodkar made sure that the flow of material was maintained. On diplomatic issues too I received valuable advice from him and his colleagues.
One celebrated case was when the government designated the chairman rather than the ambassador to chair the board of governors when it was India's turn to provide the chair. The ambassador rightly insisted on being transferred out of Vienna rather than serve on the board at a lower level. We were on the brink of a similar situation during my time, but our government did not have to choose between the ambassador and the chairman as the US did not want India to hold leadership positions in the IAEA after 1998.
Many of his peers in the scientific community, who opposed the deal on various counts, must have put pressure on him to disown the deal. No one may ever know the extent of the role played by him, but it is certain that, without his constructive contribution, the deal would never have come about.
But his international reputation as a space scientist was evident in the committee. The work we began together to get a leadership position for India in the committee fructified only after he became chairman, but his scientific contribution to the work of the committee was well known.
It was far from certain that he would head the organisation when we were in Vienna, but that did not dampen his enthusiasm for space research. I remember him speaking to me about India's lunar mission even at that time.
He is now dreaming of the day when an Indian will land on the moon in the not too distant future. I am sure that the space committee in Vienna will give him a hero's welcome, if it has not done so already.
T P Sreenivasan is a former Indian ambassador to the United Nations, Vienna, and a former governor for India, International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna.
Email | Print | Get latest news on your desktop