Katyayani Shankar Bajpai, a career diplomat of the Indian Foreign Service, better known as Shankar Bajpai, passed away on August 30, 2020, at the age of 92. He was a career diplomat of the 1952 batch of officers.
In a long and distinguished career, he served as India’s ambassador to the US, China, and Pakistan. He was also the government’s Political Officer in Sikkim from 1970 to 1974 and was involved in the integration of the state into the Indian Union. As a younger officer, he served in Pakistan during the 1965 war. In 1966, he accompanied Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri to Tashkent for the summit with President Ayub Khan of Pakistan. He was one of the few career diplomats to have been ambassador in India’s three most important and challenging posts. He was India’s Ambassador to the US when Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi made his vital first trip to Washington in 1985.
After he retired from government service in 1986, he transitioned to academic life in many universities, including University of California in 1987-88, and Visiting Professor, University of California, Berkeley, 1989-92. He then went on to be the First Professor of Non-Western Studies, Brandeis University, in 1992 and 1993. He rounded out his academic career as Visiting Fellow, Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University, in 2002.
He served as Chairman, National Security Advisory Board, from 2008 to 2010.
Given his interest in foreign policy and governance, he was the founder-chairman of the Delhi Policy Group (DPG), an independent “think-tank” in 1994. Bajpai maintained an interest in diplomacy and was involved in various “track-two” interactions with the US and Pakistan. He continued to be consulted informally by the government, particularly on relations with the US.
Bajpai was a man for many seasons. He could quote poetry classics from memory, was widely and eclectically read, was an avid film buff, but above all was known for his culinary skills and as a consummate host. At the time of his death, he was working on a biography of his father, Girja Shankar Bajpai, first Secretary-General of the Ministry of External Affairs, and on his own memoirs.
He is survived by his wife Meera and two sons Dharma and Jayanti.