Shashi Tharoor at the London Conference, June 2015
|Member of Parliament – Lok Sabha|
|Preceded by||Pannyan Raveendran|
|Minister of State for Human Resource Development|
28 October 2012 – 18 May 2014
|Prime Minister||Manmohan Singh|
|Preceded by||Daggubati Purandeswari|
|Succeeded by||Upendra Kushwaha|
|Minister of State for External Affairs|
28 May 2009 – 18 April 2010
|Prime Minister||Manmohan Singh|
|Preceded by||Anand Sharma|
|Succeeded by||E. Ahamed|
9 March 1956 |
London, United Kingdom
|Political party||Indian National Congress|
|Spouse(s)||Tilottama Mukherji (divorced)
Christa Giles (divorced)
Sunanda Pushkar (2010 – 2014 (her death))
|Alma mater||St. Stephen's College, Delhi (BA)
Tufts University (MA, MALD, PhD)
|Occupation||Writer, public intellectual, former United Nations official|
Shashi Tharoor(Malayalam:ശശി തരൂർ) (born 9 March 1956) is an Indian politician and a former diplomat who is currently serving as Member of Parliament of India (from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala since 2009). He also currently serves as Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs.
He was previously Minister of State in the Government of India for External Affairs (2009–2010) and Human Resource Development (2012–2014). He is a member of the Indian National Congress and served as an official spokesperson for the party from January to October 2014. Until 2007, he was a career official at the United Nations, rising to the rank of Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information in 2001. After 29 years at the UN, Tharoor announced his departure after finishing second in the 2006 elections for the Secretary-General to Ban Ki-moon.
Tharoor is also an acclaimed writer, having authored 15 bestselling works of fiction and non-fiction since 1981, all of which are centred on India and its history, culture, film, politics, society, foreign policy, and more. He is also the author of hundreds of columns and articles in publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, TIME, Newsweek, and The Times of India. He was a contributing editor for Newsweek International for two years. From 2010 to 2012, he wrote a column in The Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle and, for most of 2012, until his appointment as Minister, a column in Mail Today; he also writes an internationally syndicated monthly column for Project Syndicate. He also wrote regular columns for The Indian Express (1991–93 and 1996–2001), The Hindu (2001–2008), and The Times of India (2007–2009).
Tharoor is a globally recognised speaker too, on India's economics and politics, as well as on freedom of the press, human rights, Indian culture, and international affairs.
- 1 Childhood and education
- 2 Diplomatic career
- 3 Post-UN career
- 4 Political career in India
- 5 Controversies
- 6 Literary career
- 7 Personal life
- 8 Honours, awards and international recognition
- 9 Bibliography
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Childhood and education
Tharoor was born in London to the Malayali Nair family of Lily and Chandran Tharoor of Palakkad, Kerala. His father worked in various positions in London, Bombay, Calcutta and Delhi, including a 25-year career (culminating as group advertising manager) for The Statesman. His paternal uncle was T. Parameshwar, the founder of Readers Digest in India. After his parents returned to India, Tharoor boarded at Montfort School, Yercaud, in 1962, subsequently moving to Bombay (now Mumbai) and studying at the Campion School (1963–68). He spent his high school years at St Xavier's College in Calcutta (1969–71). He graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in history from St Stephen's College, Delhi.
In 1975 he moved to the United States to pursue graduate studies at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where he obtained his MA and MALD and was awarded the Robert B. Stewart Prize for Best Student and completed his PhD at the age of 22. At Fletcher he also helped found and was the first editor of the Fletcher Forum of International Affairs. He has also been awarded an honorary D.Litt by the University of Puget Sound and a doctorate honoris causa in history by the University of Bucharest.
Tharoor's career in the United Nations began in 1978 as a staff member of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva. From 1981 until 1984 he was head of the UNHCR office in Singapore, during the boat people crisis, for which he led the organisation's rescue efforts at sea and succeeded in resettling a backlog of Vietnamese refugees. He also processed Polish and Acehnese refugee cases. After a further stint at the UNHCR headquarters in Geneva, during which he became the first chairman of the staff elected by UNHCR personnel worldwide, Tharoor left UNHCR. In 1989 he was appointed special assistant to the Under-Secretary General for Special Political Affairs, the unit that later became the Peacekeeping Operations wing in New York. Until 1996, he led the team responsible for peacekeeping operations in the former Yugoslavia, spending considerable time on the ground during the civil war there.
Under-Secretary-General at the UN
In 1996 Tharoor was appointed director of communications and special projects and executive assistant to the then Secretary-General Kofi Annan. In January 2001 he was appointed Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information, and as Head of the Department of Public Information (UNDPI). In this capacity, he was responsible for the United Nations' communications strategy, enhancing the image and effectiveness of the organisation. In 2003 the Secretary-General gave him the additional responsibility of United Nations Coordinator for Multilingualism. During his tenure at the UNDPI, Tharoor reformed the department and undertook a number of initiatives, ranging from organising and conducting the first-ever UN seminar on anti-Semitism, the first-ever UN seminar on Islamophobia after the 11 September attacks, and launching an annual list of "Ten Under-Reported Stories the World Ought to Know about", which was last produced in 2008 by his successor.
Campaign for Secretary-General: 2007
|2007 Secretary-General candidates|
|Ban Ki-moon||South Korean foreign minister|
|Shashi Tharoor||Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations
for public information; from India
|Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga||President of Latvia|
|Ashraf Ghani||Chancellor of
Kabul University, Afghanistan
|Surakiart Sathirathai||Deputy prime minister
|Prince Zeid bin Ra'ad||Jordan's ambassador
to the United Nations
|Jayantha Dhanapala||Former Under-Secretary-General
for disarmament; from Sri Lanka
In 2006, the government of India nominated Tharoor for the post of UN Secretary-General. Tharoor finished second, behind Ban Ki-moon, in each of the four straw polls conducted by the UN Security Council and won the online poll conducted by the BBC News website. After the fourth poll, Ban emerged as the only candidate with the support of all five permanent members, each of whom had the power to veto candidates. Of the seven contenders for the post, including a president, two deputy prime ministers, several foreign ministers and a prince, Tharoor remained the only other to enjoy a majority in the Security Council and came within two votes of Ban on the first ballot. The United States opposed him, and China abstained from voting. After the vote, Tharoor withdrew his candidacy and declined Ban's invitation to remain in service beyond the expiry of his term as Under-Secretary-General. Had he been elected, the then-50-year-old Shashi Tharoor would have been the second-youngest Secretary-General, the youngest having been Dag Hammarskjöld, who was 46.
In February 2007, amidst speculation about his post-UN future, the Indian press reported that Tharoor might be inducted into Council of Ministers of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as Minister of State for External Affairs. In the same month, an American gossip blog reported that Tharoor was a finalist for the position of dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication in Los Angeles, but he withdrew his name from consideration at the final stage. Instead, Tharoor became chairman of Dubai-based Afras Ventures, which established the Afras Academy for Business Communication (AABC) in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India, the city in which he would go on to win two parliamentary elections. He also spoke around the world about India and Kerala, where he spent increasing amounts of time before moving for good to India in October 2008.
Prior to embarking on his political career, Shashi Tharoor also served on the board of overseers of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, the board of trustees of the Aspen Institute, and the advisory boards of the Indo-American Arts Council, the American India Foundation, the World Policy Journal, the Virtue Foundation, and the human rights organisation Breakthrough. At the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in 1976, he founded and was the first chair of the editorial board of The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, a journal examining issues in international relations. Tharoor was an international adviser to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva from 2008 to 2011. He served on the advisory council of the Hague Institute for International Justice and was elected Fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities during 1995–96. He also supported various educational causes, including as Patron of GEMS Modern Academy in Dubai.
Political career in India
In March 2009 Tharoor contested the Indian General Elections as a candidate for the Congress Party in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. His opponents included P. Ramachandran Nair of the Communist Party of India (CPI), Neelalohitadasan Nadar of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), MP Gangadharan of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), and PK Krishna Das of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Despite criticism that he was an "elite outsider", Tharoor won the elections by a margin of about 100,000. He was then selected as a minister of state in the Council of Ministers of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. On 28 May 2009 he was sworn in as Minister of State for External Affairs, in charge of Africa, Latin America, and the Gulf.
Tharoor was a pioneer in using social media as an instrument of political interaction. He was India's most-followed politician on Twitter until 2013, when he was overtaken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He was the first Indian to reach 10,000 and 100,000 followers on the medium and has millions of followers. However, some of his Twitter posts proved controversial and were highlighted negatively by the opposition and press. As Minister of State for External Affairs he re-established long-dormant diplomatic relationships with African nations, where his fluency in French made him popular with Francophone countries and their heads of state. He was also the first Indian minister to visit Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake. He initiated new policy-planning activities on the Indian Ocean and represented India at global events during his 11-month tenure as minister. In April 2010, he resigned from the position, following allegations that he had misused his office to get shares in the IPL cricket franchise. Tharoor denied the charges and, during his resignation speech in Parliament, called for a full inquiry. In a 2014 rejoinder he defended his position: "I was never involved in a scam of any sort in the IPL- I was brought down because...[I had] antagonised some powerful political cricketing interests" and added that he had "cooperated extensively with the detailed investigation conducted by the Enforcement Directorate into the entire issue", and no wrongdoing had been found.
Between 2010 and 2012 Tharoor remained active in Parliament and was member-convenor of the Parliamentary Forum on Disaster Management, a member of the Standing Committee on External Affairs, of the Consultative Committee of Defence, the Public Accounts Committee, and the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Telecoms. He participated in several important debates of the 15th Lok Sabha, including on the Lokpal Bill, the demand for grants of the Ministry of External Affairs and of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the black money debate, and so on. In the special debate on the 60th anniversary of the Indian Parliament, Tharoor was one of four members of the Congress Party, including party President Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee, to be invited to address the Lok Sabha.
In 2012 Tharoor was re-inducted into the Union Council of Ministers by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with the portfolio of minister of state for HRD. In this role he took special interest in the problems and challenges of adult education, distance education and enhancing high-quality research by academic institutions. He was responsible for the ministry's written answers to Parliament's questions and responded to oral questions on education during the Lok Sabha's Question Hour. He addressed forums and conferences on education, explained a vision of India's educational challenges in the context of the country's demographic opportunities, and stressed that education was not only a socioeconomic issue, but also a national security issue.
As Member of Parliament for Thiruvananthapuram, Tharoor became the first elected representative in India to issue annual reports on his work as MP, including furnishing accounts of his MPLADS expenditure. In 2012 he published a half-term report followed in 2014 by a full-term report.
In May 2014 Tharoor won his re-election from Thiruvananthapuram, defeating O. Rajagopal of the Bharatiya Janata Party by a margin of around 15,000 votes, and became a member of the 15th Lok Sabha, sitting in Opposition. He was named Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs. Shashi Tharoor was dropped from the post of congress spokesperson on 13 October 2014 after he praised statements of his party's opponent, Prime Minister Modi.
- In September 2009, Tharoor and S. M. Krishna were accused of staying in luxurious 5-star hotels. Tharoor said it was because of the delay in his official residence being ready and that he spent from only his own pocket for the accommodation. Later on Pranab Mukherjee's request Tharoor and Krishna moved out of the hotels.
- A controversy erupted when Tharoor, responding to the question as to whether he would travel in "Cattle class", replied that he would. This remark on Twitter ( , was alleged to equate the travelling public to cattle and taunt his party, the Indian National Congress over its austerity drive. Tharoor's explanation that "cattle class" was a well-established phrase for economy class travel, and that it attacked the airlines and not the passengers, was ignored in the outcry. It was also reported that Congress may take action against him. However, this was subsequently resolved when the prime minister pointed out to the media that the statement was "a joke".
- Another controversy involved Gandhi Jayanti when he said people should be working rather than staying at home taking a holiday, thereby paying real homage to Mahatma Gandhi.
- Tharoor was in the news again for publicly criticising the new visa guidelines adopted by the Indian government in the wake of the gaps exposed by the arrest of 26/11 terror suspects, David Headley and Tahawwur Rana. For this he was criticised for breaking ranks with the official position of the government. He later met External Affairs Minister, S.M. Krishna, and explained his position on the issue. The rules were subsequently partly modified.
- In January 2010, Tharoor criticised Nehru for his vision on Indian foreign policy by the Indian media. The critique angered his party, the Indian National Congress. In the wake of this controversy, he held a press conference describing the report as "inaccurate" and "tendentious".
- In February 2010 when accompanying the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia, he said "We feel that Saudi Arabia has a long and close relationship with Pakistan, that makes Saudi Arabia even more a valuable interlocutor for us. When we tell them about our experience, Saudi Arabia listens as somebody who is not in any way an enemy of Pakistan, but a friend of Pakistan and, therefore, will listen with sympathy and concern to a matter of this nature". He was asked whether India expected Saudi Arabia, given its close ties with Islamabad, to help address the terror threat from Pakistan. The remark about Saudi Arabia being a "valuable interlocutor" raised a strong reaction within the Indian political circle. The Pakistani press even went on to report that he had proposed that Saudi Arabia play a mediator's role in improving India's relationship with Pakistan. In response, Tharoor denied that 'interlocutor' meant 'mediator', and tweeted an explanation, saying, "An interlocutor is someone you speak to. If I speak to you, you are my interlocutor. I mentioned the Saudis as our interlocutors, i.e. the people we are here to speak to".
- In 2014, Tharoor expressed support for Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, a social campaign initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Following this, the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee lodged a complaint against him to the Congress high command for his pro-Modi stance. Following this, Tharoor was dropped as the official spokesperson of the party.
- In 2016, while speaking at JNU on nationalism, Tharoor compared Kanhaiya, a student charged with sedition, with Bhagat Singh, an Indian freedom fighter. This comparison generated a great public controversy, even the party distancing themselves with Tharoor's views.
Tharoor has written numerous books in English.
Tharoor has been a columnist in each of India's three best-known English-language newspapers, most recently for The Hindu newspaper (2001–2008) and in a weekly column, "Shashi on Sunday," in the Times of India (January 2007 – December 2008). Following his resignation as Minister of State for External Affairs, he began a fortnightly column on foreign policy issues in the Deccan Chronicle. Previously he was a columnist for the Gentleman magazine and the Indian Express newspaper, as well as a frequent contributor to Newsweek International and the International Herald Tribune. His op-eds and book reviews have appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, amongst other papers. His monthly column, "India Reawakening", distributed by Project Syndicate, appears in 80 newspapers around the world.
Tharoor began writing at the age of 6, and his first published story appeared in the Sunday edition of The Free Press Journal, in Mumbai at age 10. His World War II adventure novel Operation Bellows, inspired by the Biggles books, was serialised in the Junior Statesman starting a week before his 11th birthday. Each of his books has been a bestseller in India. The Great Indian Novel is in its 42nd edition, and a Silver Jubilee special edition has been slated for publication on the book's 25th anniversary, September 2014, from Viking Pengun India.The Elephant, the Tiger and the Cellphone has undergone seven hardback re-printings there.
Tharoor has lectured widely on India, and is often quoted for his observations, including, "India is not, as people keep calling it, an underdeveloped country, but rather, in the context of its history and cultural heritage, a highly developed one in an advanced state of decay." He also coined a comparison of India's "thali" to the American "melting pot": "If America is a melting pot, then to me India is a thali – a selection of sumptuous dishes in different bowls. Each tastes different, and does not necessarily mix with the next, but they belong together on the same plate, and they complement each other in making the meal a satisfying repast".
Tharoor's first wife was Tilottama Mukherji, a granddaughter of Kailashnath Katju and thus a first cousin of Markandey Katju. She is now a professor of humanities at New York University. They have two sons, Kanishk and Ishaan.
 Ishaan is a former senior editor at Time magazine, and now writes on foreign affairs for The Washington Post. Kanishk is a former editor at Open Democracy, and is working on a novel in New York Kanishk is associate editor at openDemocracy.net. Later he married Christa Giles, a Canadian diplomat working at the United Nations. After their divorce, Tharoor married Sunanda Pushkar in his ancestral home in Elavanchery village in Kerala's Palakkad district on August 2010. On 17 January 2014 Sunanda, aged 52, died at The Leela Hotel in Chanakyapuri, New Delhi.
Honours, awards and international recognition
- 1976 – Won the Rajika Kripalani Young Journalist Award for the Best Indian Journalist under 30.
- 1990 – Won the Federation of Indian Publishers' Hindustan Times Literary Award for the Best Book of the Year for The Great Indian Novel.
- 1991 – His book The Great Indian Novel won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for the Best Book of the Year in the Eurasian Region.
- 1998 – Awarded the Excelsior Award for excellence in literature by the Association of Indians in America (AIA) and the Network of Indian Professionals (NetIP).
- 2000 – Conferred the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters in International Affairs by the University of Puget Sound
- 1998 – Named Global Leader of Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland
- 2004 – Awarded the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, India's highest honour for non-resident Indians. But did not accept it at the time owing to UN rules prohibiting acceptance of governmental honours.
- 2007 – Went on to accept the award after having resigned from the position of Under Secretary General at the UN.
- 2008 – Conferred a Doctorate Honoris Causa by the University of Bucharest, Romania.
- 2009 – Awarded the Zakir Hussain Memorial "Pride of India" Award.
- 2009 – Awarded GQ's Inspiration of the Year Award at its Man of the Year Awards.
- 2009 – Presented with the Hakim Khan Sur Award for National Integration by the Maharana of Udaipur.
- 2010 – Awarded the Sarva Deshiya Prathibha award by the Pazhassiraja Charitable Trust, Kozhikode.
- March 2010 – Awarded "New Age Politician of the Year" Award by NDTV at its Indian of the Year awards.
- 2010 – Awarded the Fifth IILM Distinguished Global Thinker Award in New Delhi.
- 2010 – Awarded Digital person of the year at the first ever Indian Digital Media Awards (IDMA) for popularising the digital medium in India.
- 2013 – Awarded First Sree Narayan Guru Global Secular and Peace Award at Thiruvananthapuram.
- 2013 – PETA's "Person of the Year".
- The Great Indian Novel (1989)
- The Five Dollar Smile and Other Stories (1990)
- Show Business (1992)
- Riot (2001)
- Reasons of State (1985)
- India: From Midnight to the Millennium (1997)
- Nehru: The Invention of India (2003)
- Bookless in Baghdad (2005)
- The Elephant, the Tiger, and the Cell Phone: Reflections on India – The Emerging 21st-Century Power (2007)
- Shadows Across the Playing Field: Sixty Years of India-Pakistan Cricket (2009) (with Shaharyar Khan)
- Pax Indica: India and the World of the 21st Century (2012)
- India: the Future is Now, Wisdom Tree (Editor)(2013)
- India Shastra: Reflections on the Nation in our Time (2015)
- Kerala: God’s own country (2002) (along with artist M.F. Husain).
- Inde (in French) or India (in English) (2008) along with photographer Ferrante Ferranti.
- "Sunanda Pushkar Found Dead at Leela Hotel in Delhi". Mumbai Voice. 19 January 2014. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
- "Chairperson of Committees - Lok Sabha". Lok Sabha. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
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- "Why Caste Won't Disappear From India". The Huffington Post. 8 December 2014.
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- Radhakrishnan, S. Anil (22 January 2014). "Four-lane work only on 26-km bypass stretch". The Hindu (Chennai, India).
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- "Manmohan arrives after historic Saudi visit". Samay Live.
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- Newspaper Circulation
- Tharoor, Shashi (10 October 2012). "Book review: ‘Behind the Beautiful Forevers,’ by Katherine Boo". The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
- Tharoor, Shashi (24 October 2004). "No great sheiks". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
- Chamberlin, Kyle (10 April 2007). "Former UN diplomat Tharoor to deliver Hesburgh Lectures". University of Notre Dame.
- The Great Indian Novel, Viking: London, 1989, p.18.
- The Elephant, the Tiger and the Cellphone, Viking: New Delhi, 2007, p.62.
- "Shashi Tharoor to marry third time". Times of India. 13 April 2010.
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- "Dr Shashi Tharoor receives the Fifth IILM Distinguished Global Thinker Award, 2010". India PR Wire.
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- Tharoor, Shashi. The Great Indian Novel. Arcade Publishing. p. 423. ISBN 1-55970-194-3.
- Tharoor, Shashi. The Five Dollar Smile and Other Stories. Arcade Pub. p. 175. ISBN 1-55970-225-7.
- Tharoor, Shashi. Show Business. Skyhorse Publishing Inc. p. 320. ISBN 1-61145-407-7.
- Tharoor, Shashi (2001). Riot. Arcade Publishing. p. 272. ISBN 1-55970-605-8.
- Tharoor, Shashi (1982). Reasons of state: political development and India's foreign policy under Indira Gandhi. Vikas Pub. House. p. 438. ISBN 0-7069-1275-6.
- Tharoor, Shashi. India: From Midnight To The Millennium and Beyond. Arcade Publishing. p. 420. ISBN 1-55970-803-4.
- Tharoor, Shashi. Nehru: The Invention Of India. Arcade Publishing. p. 282. ISBN 1-55970-697-X.
- Tharoor, Shashi. Bookless in Baghdad: Reflections on Writing and Writers. Skyhorse Publishing Inc. p. 288. ISBN 1-61145-408-5.
- Tharoor, Shashi. The Elephant, the Tiger, and the Cell Phone: Reflections on India – The Emerging 21st-Century Power. W W Norton & Company Incorporated. p. 512. ISBN 1-61145-393-3.
- Tharoor, Shaharyar Mohammed Khan, Shashi (2009). Shadows Across the Playing Field: 60 Years of India-Pakistan Cricket. Roli Books. p. 189. ISBN 81-7436-718-7.
- Tharoor, Shashi (2012). Pax Indica: India and the World of the 21st Century. Penguin Books India. p. 456. ISBN 9780670085743.
- Bhattacharyya, Barsali (1 May 2013). "The politics of the future: MPs launch book on how young people can make a difference". Daily Mail (London).
- Tharoor, Maqbul Fida Husain, Shashi. Kerala, God's own country. Books Today. p. 57. ISBN 81-87478-43-8.
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