A Formidable Diplomat and More, Nirupam Sen

Written by Prabhat Patnaik | Published on: July 6, 2017
Nirupam Sen passed away on July 2, 2017 in Delhi. Nirupam was two years my junior at St.Stephen’s, and even as an undergraduate had acquired a formidable reputation for his intellect and erudition. For some unfathomable reason he did not become an academic but went into the foreign service instead. He was, when the world capitalist crisis began in 2008, India’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations, and, along with the President of the General Assembly at that time, Father Miguel Brockman from Nicaragua, keen to have the UN play a leading role in fashioning a new world order that they both thought should emerge out of the crisis. As Brockman put it, instead of the G-7, or the G-20, it should be the G-192, that is the entire membership of the UN, which should decide on the new world order. The idea needless to say was scuttled at US initiative and the world was back to having a few dictating terms to all, which Nirupam, an ardent anti-imperialist and champion of the non-aligned movement, had been strongly opposed to.
 
Nirupam Sen

Nirupam carried forward his formidable knowledge and intellect to the task of diplomacy, and with his anti-imperialist views, was held in very high esteem by delegates from other third world countries, especially those from Africa and Latin America.
 
I observed this myself when I was a part of a four-member group which included Joseph Stiglitz and which was invited  by Father Brockman to address the General Assembly on what needed to be done in the wake of the crisis. After we had spoken, the delegates were supposed to respond to our remarks, and Nirupam naturally spoke on behalf of India. He made a characteristically learned and profound speech, invoking even concepts like Keynes’ “liquidity trap”, though he was not a student of economics. At least half a dozen third world delegates who spoke after him, began their speeches with the remark: “After the Indian delegate has spoken, it is unnecessary for me to say anything more”. 
 
After retirement, Nirupam came back to settle down in Delhi and was a regular presence at all gatherings of the Left and progressive intelligentsia, especially at events organized by the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (Sahmat). His intellect, his absolute honesty, his commitment to democracy and the cause of building a humane society, were an enormous source of inspiration to everybody actively engaged in the struggle against communal-fascism at this difficult juncture in our nation’s life.                                                                    
Nirupam, Sen delivered a lecture on Nehru’s foreign policy in the series of lectures commemorating 125th birth anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru organized by SAHMAT. He also wrote an erudite foreword to the collection of lectures by Prabhat  Patnaik commemorating  100th anniversary of October Revolution and published in The October Revolution and The Present ( SAHMAT)