NEW DELHI: Krishna Menon, defence minister under Jawaharlal Nehru, is blamed for the unprepared state of the military during the war against China. He is also blamed for not reading the signals from China correctly (although there much of the blame tends to be directed at Nehru). But Jairam Ramesh, Congress leader and minister during the UPA years, believes that Menon’s record is not all negative. In a chat on StratNews Global’s Books Corner, in the context of the clashes in Ladakh, Ramesh notes his signal role in laying the foundations of India’s defence industrial base. In his book, A Chequered Brilliance: The Many Lives of V.K. Krishna Menon, Ramesh credits Menon’s vision for India going on to build aircraft and helicopters at Hindustan Aeronautics, the Indian Navy is regarded s a “builder’s navy” because it designs and builds ships at its own yards. The DRDO and the many PSUs that dot the industrial landscape in India was also born of Menon’s single-minded drive.
Ramesh acknowledges that the defeat in 1962 may have come to define Menon. As defence minister, he played favourites and accepted the appointment of Gen B.M.Kaul as corps commander despite his lack of operational experience. His presence in the defence ministry so rankled some Western leaders that they demanded his removal as the price for transferring military equipment to India.