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Padma Shri recipient Phillips Talbot dies

October 06, 2010 17:13 IST

Veteran diplomat and author Phillips Talbot, a Padma Shri recipient who experienced first-hand the power of Mahatma Gandhi's non-violent movement and was one of the few Americans present during India's partition, has died in New York at the age of 95.

Talbot's death on October 1 was announced by the Asia Society, where he served as the president between 1970 and 1981.

He was United State's assistant secretary of state for near eastern and south Asian affairs during the John F Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson administrations between 1961 and 1965. He also served as the ambassador to Greece between 1965 and 1969.

Talbot served as president of the Asia Society between 1970 and 1981 and wrote extensively about the region in books and journals over many decades.

Describing Tablot as a groundbreaking American observer of Asian affairs, Asia Society president Vishakha N Desai said, "Phil was a statesman, a great leader and a thoughtful observer of US-Asia relations."

"We will miss his wisdom and commitment," Desai was quoted as saying in a press release.

Born on June 7, 1915, Talbot pursued a long and distinguished academic and diplomatic career.

In 2002, India awarded him the prestigious Padma Shri award, an honour generally bestowed on Indian nationals, in recognition of his efforts to build Indo-US understanding.

His love and understanding of Asia began in 1939, when he first travelled to India on a student fellowship.

During World War II, he served in India and China as a US naval liaison officer and attache.

After the war, he reported from the subcontinent as a correspondent for the Chicago Daily News and witnessed Indian independence from British rule and partition from Pakistan in 1947. He also wrote about fledging independence movements in Southeast Asia.

During the 1950s, he returned to academia in the US and directed an inter-university programme devoted to the study of the developing countries as they emerged from colonialism. He played an important role as an adviser during the founding of Asia Society in 1956 under the patronage of John D Rockefeller 3rd.

"Phil Talbot was an early American pioneer in the field of Asian Studies," Desai said.

"Travelling the length and breadth of the Indian subcontinent in the 1930s, he experienced first-hand the power of Gandhi's non-violent independence movement. He was one of the very few Americans present at the formation of independent Pakistan and India in 1947," she said.

Talbot's wife Mildred and son Bruce preceded him in death. He is survived by his daughters Nancy Talbot and Susan Talbot Jacox, and a grandson, David Franklin Jacox.

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