John Kenneth Galbraith, an influential liberal economist who also served as the US ambassador to India in the 1960s and was a strong proponent of better ties with the country, has died at the age of 97.
The Canadian-born Galbraith, a professor at Harvard University, died on Saturday at a hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the New York Times said.
Galbraith, well known for his books including the bestseller “The Affluent Society”, advised president John F. Kennedy who appointed him as ambassador to India.
He said in his memoir: “Kennedy, I always believed, was pleased to have me in his administration, but at a suitable distance such as in India.” Galbraith was fascinated with India; he had spent a year there in 1956 advising its government and was eager to return.
“He spent 27 months as ambassador, clashed with the State Department and was more favourably regarded as a diplomat by those outside the government. He fought for increased American military and economic aid for India and acted as a sort of informal adviser to the Indian government on economic policy,” the Times noted in an obituary.
“Known by his staff as ‘The Great Mogul’, he achieved an excellent rapport with prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and other senior officials in the Indian government.
“When India became embroiled in a border war with China in the Himalayas in 1962, Ambassador Galbraith effectively took charge of both the American military and the diplomatic response during what was a brief but potentially explosive crisis.
“He saw to it that India received restrained American help and took it upon himself to announce that the US recognized India’s disputed northern borders,” the paper said.
In 1969, Galbraith wrote “Ambassador’s Journal: A Personal Account of the Kennedy Years”, a book based on the diary he kept during his time in India.
A year earlier Galbraith co-authored “Indian Painting: The Scenes, Themes and Legends”. A connoisseur of Indian art, he donated most of his collection to the Harvard University Art Museums.
At the time of his death Galbraith was an emeritus professor of economics at Harvard, where he had taught for most of his career.