Shashi Tharoor



Shashi Tharoor Wikipedia

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Shashi Tharoor

Shashi Tharoor.jpg
Shashi Tharoor
Minister of State for Human Resource Development
In office

28 October 2012 – 18 May 2014
Prime MinisterManmohan Singh
Preceded byDaggubati Purandeswari
Member of Parliament – Lok Sabha
Assumed office

Preceded byPannyan Raveendran
Minister of State for External Affairs
In office

28 May 2009 – 18 April 2010
Prime MinisterManmohan Singh
Preceded byAnand Sharma
Succeeded byE. Ahamed
Personal details
Born(1956-03-09) 9 March 1956 (age 58)

London, United Kingdom
Political partyIndian National Congress
Spouse(s)Tilottama Mukherji (divorced)

Christa Giles (divorced)

Sunanda Pushkar (2010 – 2014 (her death))
ChildrenIshaan, Kanishk
ResidenceNew Delhi/Thiruvananthapuram
Alma materSt. Stephen's College, Delhi (BA)

Tufts University (MA, M.A.L.D., PhD)
OccupationWriter, Diplomat, Politician
Shashi Tharoor (born 9 March 1956) is an Indian politician and has been twice elected Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha) from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. 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 in January 2014 was appointed an official spokesperson for the party. 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. But after 29 years in service, he announced his departure after coming a close second in the 2006 elections for the Secretary-General to Ban Ki-moon.

Tharoor is also a well-known award-winning writer, having authored 14 bestselling works of fiction and non-fiction since 1985, all of which are centered 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, Washington Post, TIME, Newsweek, and The Times of India. He also served for 2 years as Contributing Editor for Newsweek International From 2010–2012 he authored a column in The Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle and for most of 2012, till his appointment as Minister, a column in Mail Today; he also writes an internationally syndicated monthly column for Project Syndicate. He has, in the past, authored columns regularly for the Indian Express (1991–93 and 1996–2001), The Hindu (2001–2008), and The Times of India (2007–2009).

Tharoor is also a globally-recognized speaker on India's economics and politics, as well as on freedom of the press, human rights, Indian culture, and international affairs.


      Childhood and education

      Tharoor was born in London to 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, through whom Tharoor is also related to the artist Anjolie Ela Menon. After his parents returned to India, Tharoor boarded at Montfort School in Yercaud (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 Collegiate in Kolkata (1969–71). He then went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History from St Stephen's College, Delhi,(1972–75), where his contemporaries included the politician Salman Khurshid, the documentary film-maker Rajiv Mehrotra, the quizmaster Siddhartha Basu, the novelists Amitav Ghosh, Rukun Advani and Anurag Mathur, the theatre impresario Amir Raza Husain, the editor and politician Chandan Mitra, the columnist Swapan Dasgupta, the economist and media crusader Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, the IAS officer-turned social activist Harsh Mander, the television personality Sunil Sethi, the diplomats Jayant Prasad, the World Trade Organization executive Harsh Vardhan Singh and the advertising guru Piyush Pandey.

      In 1976 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, also setting a record in 1978 by becoming the youngest student to earn a PhD aged 22 and winning the Robert B Stewart Prize for Best Student. At Fletcher he also helped found and was the first Editor of the Fletcher Forum of International Affairs (now in its 35th year). 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 has two sisters, Shobha Tharoor-Srinivasan, who lives in the United States, and Smita Tharoor, who is based in London.

      Diplomatic career

      Shashi Tharoor showing replica of the Cyrus Cylinder to filmmaker Cyrus Kar at the UN headquarters.


      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. 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 in the wake of 9/11, and launching an annual list of ‘Ten Under-Reported Stories the World Ought to Know about’ (last produced in 2008 by his successor).

      On 9 February 2007, Tharoor resigned from the post of UN Under-Secretary General and left the UN effective 1 April 2007.

      Campaign for Secretary-General: 2007

      See also: United Nations Secretary-General selection, 2006
      2007 Secretary-General candidates
      South KoreaBan Ki-moonSouth Korean foreign minister
      IndiaShashi TharoorUnder-Secretary-General of the United Nations

      for public information; from India
      LatviaVaira Vīķe-FreibergaPresident of Latvia
      AfghanistanAshraf GhaniChancellor of

      Kabul University, Afghanistan
      ThailandSurakiart SathirathaiDeputy prime minister

      of Thailand
      JordanPrince Zeid bin Ra'adJordan's ambassador

      to the United Nations
      Sri LankaJayantha DhanapalaFormer Under-Secretary-General

      for disarmament; from Sri Lanka
      In 2006, the Government of India nominated Tharoor for the post of UN Secretary General. Tharoor came a close 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. One Permanent Member (later revealed to be the United States under the Bush Administration) 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 to be appointed to the post, the first being Dag Hammarskjöld who was appointed at the age of 46 years.

      Post-UN career

      A picture of Shashi Tharoor taken at TED Mysore
      In February 2007, amidst rampant speculation about his post-UN future, it was presciently reported in the Indian press 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, it was reported in an American gossip blog that Tharoor was a finalist for the position of Dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication in Los Angeles, though 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, in an indication of his growing interest in the city where he would go on two win two parliamentary elections. He also spoke widely around the globe 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 organization Breakthrough. Tharoor was an International Adviser to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva for the period 2008-2011. He was also a Fellow of the New York Institute of the Humanities and the Patron of the Dubai Modern School, and on the Advisory Council of the Hague Institute for International Justice.

      Political career in India

      Shashi Tharoor at a march parade with NSUI President Hibi Eden and other Congress workers in Ernakulam, Kerala.
      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 just two votes short of 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 became the first Indian politician and celebrity to get 100,000 followers on Twitter, which to a great extent he popularised in the country. However, some of his Tweets 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 very popular with Francophone countries and their heads of state. He was also the first Indian Minister to visit Haiti after the devastating earthquake of 2010. He initiated new policy-planning activities on the Indian Ocean and represented India at global events during his eleven-month tenure as Minister. In April 2010, however, he resigned from his Ministry following unsubstantiated allegations that he had misused his office to get shares in the IPL cricket franchise. Tharoor denied the charges and in his resignation speech in Parliament called for a full inquiry. In a 2014 rejoinder he defended his position stating: ‘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’, also adding 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 highly 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 some of the most 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, Dr Tharoor was the only member of the Congress Party, other than 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 questions and responded to oral questions on education whenever the Lok Sabha's Question Hour was allowed to function. His initiatives on reducing over-regulation in certain areas of education, in promoting values education in schools, and in pushing the Ministry to a more liberal interpretation of copyright on educational materials, were appreciated inside and outside the Ministry. He addressed innumerable forums and conferences on education, articulating a vision of India's educational challenges in the context of the country's demographic opportunities, and stressing that education was not merely a socio-economic issue but a national security imperative.

      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 over 15,000 vote, and became a member of the 15th Lok Sabha, sitting in Opposition.


      • In September 2009, Tharoor and S M Krishna were accused of staying in luxurious 5-star hotels. Tharoor defended himself, saying that it was because of the delay in his official residence being ready and he only spent from 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 do so. This remark on Twitter (@ShashiTharoor), was alleged to equate the travelling public to cattle and taunt his party, the Indian National Congress over their 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 erupted on 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 criticizing 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 criticized for breaking ranks with the official position of the Government. He later met External Affairs Minister, SM Krishna and explained his position on the issue. The rules were subsequently partly modified.
      • In January 2010, Tharoor criticized Gandhi and Nehru for their vision on Indian foreign policy by the Indian media. This 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 their 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".
      Main article: India – Saudi Arabia relations, section '2010 visit to Saudi Arabia by Manmohan Singh'

      Literary career

      Shashi Tharoor delivering a lecture at Université d'été du MEDEF, 2007
      Tharoor has written numerous books in English.See full list below

      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[citation needed] and the Los Angeles Times, amongst other papers.[citation needed] His monthly column, "India Reawakening", distributed by Project Syndicate, appears in some 80 newspapers around the world.[citation needed]

      Tharoor began writing at the age of six[citation needed] and his first published story appeared in the "Bharat Jyoti", the Sunday edition of "The Free Press Journal", in Mumbai at age 10.[citation needed] His World War II adventure novel Operation Bellows, inspired by the Biggles books, was serialized in the Junior Statesman starting a week before his 11th birthday.[citation needed] Each of his books has been a best-seller in India.[citation needed].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.[citation needed]

      Tharoor has lectured widely on India, and is often quoted for his observations,[citation needed] 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 has also coined a memorable 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.". (Other quotes in Wikiquote.)

      Personal life

      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 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 Jan 2014 Sunanda aged 52, was found dead at The Leela Hotel in Chanakyapuri, New Delhi.

      A theatre buff in his school days, he played Antony to Mira Nair's Cleopatra in a 1974 production of Antony and Cleopatra. At St. Stephen's in the early 1970s he founded the Quiz Club, which is still in existence; he also revived the Wodehouse Society, which is no longer in existence. Upon election as President of the College Union[citation needed] he relinquished the Secretaryship of the History Society as well as the editorship of the campus humour magazine "Kooler Talk." He was invited by St. Stephen's College to deliver the college's 125th Anniversary Jubilee Lecture in 2005.

      He has been an elected Fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities during 1995–96 and a member of the Advisory Board of the Indo-American Arts Council and also served on the board of directors of Breakthrough, an international human rights organization, the Board of Overseers of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, the Board of Trustees of the Aspen Institute, and as an International Adviser to the International Committee of the Red Cross. He also supported various educational causes, including as Patron of GEMS Modern Academy in Dubai.

      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.

      Honors, awards and international recognition

      • 1976 – Wins the Rajika Kripalani Young Journalist Award for the Best Indian Journalist under 30.
      • 1990 – Wins the Federation of Indian Publishers' Hindustan Times Literary Award for the Best Book of the Year for The Great Indian Novel.[citation needed]
      • 1991 – His book The Great Indian Novel wins 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)[citation needed] 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[citation needed]
      • 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.[citation needed]
      • 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.[citation needed]
      • 2009 – Awarded the Zakir Hussain Memorial "Pride of India" Award.[citation needed]
      • 2009 – Awarded GQ's Inspiration of the Year Award at its Man of the Year Awards.[citation needed]
      • 2009 – Presented with the Hakim Khan Sur Award for National Integration by the Maharana of Udaipur.[citation needed]
      • 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.[citation needed]
      • 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)(along with Shaharyar Khan)
      • Pax Indica: India and the World of the 21st Century (2012)
      • India: the Future is Now, Wisdom Tree (Editor)(2013)

      Illustrated books

      • 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

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