Mainstream, VOL LIII No 34 August 15, 2015
Tribute: P.R. Chari
Saturday 15 August 2015
One of India’s most well-known proponents of nuclear disarmament, P.R. Chari, passed away in New Delhi on July 24. Chari, a former officer of the Indian Administrative Service, served two terms in the Defence Ministry, and was also a former Director of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) from 1975 to 1980. He was known for promoting a “consensual approach on the nuclear issue”, according to Commodore Uday Bhaskar, also a Director at the government-affiliated IDSA.
After his retirement in 1992, Chari, who took up fellowships at Harvard University and the University of Illinois, took to writing extensively on the subject of disarmament.
P.R. Chari was a former member of the Indian Administrative Service (1960 batch/Madhya Pradesh Cadre). He served in several senior positions in the Central and State governments, and sought voluntary retirement in 1992 after 32 years in the government. During the course of his official career he served two spells (1971-75 and 1985-88) in the Ministry of Defence. His last position there was of an Additional Secretary. He retired from the position of Vice-Chairman (Chief Executive) of the Narmada Valley Development Authority.
On the academic side, besides being the Director, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi (1975-80), he was International Fellow, Centre for International Affairs, Harvard University (1983-84); Visiting Fellow, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (1998); Research Professor, Centre for Policy Research (1992-96); Co-Director and Director of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS), New Delhi (1996-2003). Subse-quently he was a Research Professor in the IPCS, an institute he founded and set up.
He worked extensively on nuclear disarma-ment, non-proliferation and Indian security issues. He published over 1400 op-ed articles in newspapers/websites and over 130 monographs and major papers in learned journals/chapters in books abroad and in India.
Major General Dipankar Banerjee, co-founder of the IPCS, writes:
“What do you say when a friend, a mentor and a guide is suddenly no more! The loss is sudden, unexpected and deeply disconcerting. Leaving you suddenly bereft and rudderless. A void that you know will never be filled.
“What will I miss most about P.R. Chari? The mid-morning coffee together, when he would regale you with the latest political gossip? Or, his sane advice on some issues to deal with India’s babudom? Or, his wisdom on issues of national interest in this troubling and conflict-prone world? Most of all perhaps I will miss his unhurried, graceful pace, quiet words and his cheerful smile. In nearly two-and-a-half decades of fair intimacy, I never once saw him lose his cool.
“An illustrious South Indian pedigree, he had a brilliant career in the IAS. He decided to leave this prematurely in 1992, to take up his other love, strategic studies. He took up a professorship in the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi. Chandra and he would host such wonderfully warm gatherings at their Vasant Vihar residence. Their daughters, Anusha and Divya, were then beginning brilliant careers for themselves. I met him there occasionally and in the seminar circuit.
“Some four years later, as I decided to retire prematurely, he suggested that we try something different together. Why not start a new indepen-dent think-tank? We knew India had talent, but needed to nurture it. Our area was national security, where we needed, more than anywhere else, young alternate voices. That is how the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies was born, nineteen years ago. The Institute became his life since then. I left it for four-and-a-half years on international assignments, but Chari remained with it throughout....
“From nothing and with financial resources sometimes one-fiftieth of comparable institutes in India or around the world, the IPCS was adjudged a leader in various categories by international rating agencies. But, what Chari enjoyed most was guiding young minds and nurturing them. We have seen over a hundred and more of them pass through our humble doors, making a difference around the world.
“The IPCS was going through troubled times recently and was being restructured. Almost the last thing he heard before his transition was that this effort was successful and the Institute would have a long lease of life. This was even as he was destined not to be with us even for another day!
“Change is the order of life and transition to the next is a part of it. But, the soul never dies. We know wherever he is, he will be looking over us. With his gentle smile and wry humour. Good-bye, my friend, may you find eternal peace.”