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The Hindu, July 26, 2016
Arundhati Ghose (1940-2016): A diplomat for war and peace
Former Indian doplomat Arundhati Ghose headed the Indian delegation at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva
One spring 2006 afternoon Arundhati Ghose received an urgent call from an official in the Ministry of External Affairs. Soon the caller arrived for the meeting on the lawn of the India International Centre (IIC) to discuss India’s nuclear diplomacy with the United States. Ambassador Ghose generously shared her ideas with him. Finally, as she used to during a fulfilling conversation, Ms. Ghose lit a cigarette and said, “Come on, you are now grown up. Don’t come running to me for all your issues. I have done my job and now I just want to have a good time.”
After more than four decades in Indian diplomacy, Arundhati Ghose wanted to retire. But, neither her junior colleagues, nor the media would allow her the luxury of solitude. Having served in all the key episodes of Indian diplomacy like the 1971 war, and India’s nuclear diplomacy, Arundhati Ghose knew every twist and turn of Indian foreign policy and over the years had become an institution in herself.
Ambassador Ghose was a diplomatic soldier of India who had distinguished herself by leading from the front when she defended India’s decision to oppose the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Ms. Ghose was the Ambassador of India to the Conference on Disarmament (CD), Geneva, where India faced exceptional pressure to sign CTBT during the mid- 1990s. On August 8, 1996, in an assertive speech, Arundhati Ghose conveyed India’s opposition to the CTBT.
The image of the elegant ambassador in silk sari countering nuclear hegemony of few countries became one of the lasting images of India’s diplomacy at the global high table. In her discussion about foreign affairs of which this journalist had been a frequent beneficiary, nuclear issues and South Asia figured prominently. A conversation with Ms. Ghose would always include talks of grand strategy, power play and the future. Ms. Ghose loved discussing.
She rarely talked of her role during the war of 1971. But for her, the government of Bangladesh in Exile, also known as the government of Mujibnagar, could not have survived. After the beginning of the crackdown in April 1971, against the Bengalis in East Pakistan, Tajuddin Ahmed formed the first government of Bangladesh in April 1971. As a young diplomat, Ms. Ghose worked as the liaison officer in-charge of the government of Tajuddin Ahmed.
In 2012, Bangladesh honoured Ms. Ghose for her support, alongside the likes of Lt. Gen. JFR Jacob, on the Forty-first anniversary of the country.
Though war and prevention of war had been at the centre of Ms. Ghose’s diplomatic legacy, she also became a champion of non-violence and the fight against proliferation of small arms in the Twenty-first century. She recounted to us that her interest in preventing spread of hand guns in South Asia is due to the fact that her family was not left untouched by terrorism and militancy in the region. She had lost her nephew Sanjay Ghose to the militant violence in Assam. In the passing away of Ambassador Ghose, India lost a soldier who knew both sides of a war.