India’s First Diplomat
V.S. Srinivasa Sastri and the Making of Liberal Internationalism

9: A Trustee of India’s Honour


On the morning of 28 May 1927, Sastri arrived in the summer capital Shimla for an appointment with Lord Irwin in his official residence. Architecturally inspired by the English Renaissance, the Viceregal House (now the Indian Institute for Advanced Studies) is reminiscent of Scottish castles with its grey stone exterior. It sits atop Observatory Hill, a watershed that cleaves the Indian subcontinent into two. On its one side waters fall into the Arabian sea and on the other into the Bay of Bengal. Each summer since 1888, when the Viceroy retreated with his government’s entourage from the sweltering heat of Delhi to the hills of Shimla, figuratively, India’s governmental and geological centres merged. Sastri had arrived in Shimla to officially take charge as India’s first Agent to South Africa. While he had served earlier in government delegations in a non-official capacity, this was his first appointment as a full-time official of the Indian government.

Two days later, John Tyson, an Indian Civil Service officer, joined as his official secretary. A First World War veteran, Tyson had entered the ICS in 1920 and shot into the public limelight recently on account of his progressive judgements as the officiating chief presidency magistrate in Calcutta. The young magistrate was brought to the notice of the Home member in the Viceroy’s Council, Alexander Muddiman. When asked if he would go to South Africa, Tyson jumped at the opportunity to escape a provincial life and immediately set off for Shimla.1

The third official member of the delegation was the Office Superintendent, Claude Stanley Ricketts. At the time employed at the Viceroy’s Office, Ricketts had also served in the Paddison and Habibullah delegations.

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