Vengalil Krishnan Krishna Menon was an Indian diplomat, nationalist and politician, described by some as the second most powerful man in India, after his ally, the 1st Prime Minister of India, Jawahatlal Nehru.
Krishna Menon was born on May 3, 1896, near Calicut in what is now the southern Indian state of Kerala. He had his early education at the Zamorin’s College, Kozhikode.
In 1918 he graduated from Presidency College, Chennai, with a B.A. in History and Economics. While studying in the Madras Law College, he became involved in Theosophy and was actively associated with Annie Besant and the Home Rule Movement.
He was a leading member of the “Brothers of Service”, founded by Annie Besant who spotted his gifts and helped him travel to England in 1924. In London, Menon pursued further education at University College, London and the London School of Economics.
Menon became a passionate proponent of India’s independence, working as a journalist and as secretary of the India League from 1929 to 1947, and a close friend of fellow Indian nationalist leader and future Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
He headed India’s diplomatic missions to the United Kingdom and the United Nations, and distinguished himself in diplomatic matters including the Suez crisis.
Menon’s intense distrust of the West extended to the United Kingdom itself, and his frequent thwarting of British political manoeuvres eventually led MI5 to deem him a “serious menace to security”.
Menon set the record for the longest speech(8 hours) before the U.N. Security Council while defending India’s rights to the disputed territory of Kashmir, in the process earning widespread popularity and the sobriquet “Hero of Kashmir”.
Returning to India, he was repeatedly elected to both houses of the Indian parliament from constituencies as varied as Mumbai, Bengal, and Trivandrum in his native state of Kerala, and served as a minister without portfolio, and later as Minister of Defence.
He resigned in the wake of the Sino-Indian War, following allegations of India’s military unpreparedness, but remained counselor to Nehru, member of parliament and elder statesman until his death.