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

11: Conclusion: An Amiable Usurper


The business of a biographer is, C.L.R. James reminds us, to keep in mind that ‘great men [and women] make history, but only such history as it is possible for them to make’. A biographer’s task is ‘to portray the limits of those necessities and the realization, complete or partial, of all possibilities’.1 A biographer in essence is almost always a historian of the limits on the individual.

Our narrative of Sastri’s diplomatic life ends here, but before we turn to conclude with the key themes, we have the small matter of 17 years to talk about. Our narrative ends in January 1929 and Sastri lived until April 1946. It is only fair that we at least offer a synoptic view of the rest of his life.

Sastri returned from South Africa to be taken off to East Africa by Irwin in May 1929. The Commission on Closer Union of the East African Commission, also known as the Hilton Young Commission, had recently submitted its report to the British government. The majority report rejected the demand for a more federated and self-governing polity that the whites had demanded.2 A federal union, along the lines of South Africa, would have given them greater political distance from London and more autonomy to form a white supremacist state. The report took a more pro-African and pro-Indian stance, recommending a common franchise and common electoral roll for all races, with a rider that the consent of whites must be requisitioned before a common roll was adopted. It recommended a closer union between the three territories of Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika but only for the purposes of coordinating native policy.

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