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Krishnaswamy Subrahmanyam – India’s Very Own Chanakya & Strategic Affairs Analyst


Krishnaswamy Subrahmanyam

Quick Facts

  • Name: Krishnaswamy Subrahmanyam
  • Famous As: International Strategic Affairs Analyst, Journalist
  • Nationality: Indian
  • Birth Date: 19 January 1929 (Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu)
  • Died On: 2 February 2011


A Prominent Voice in Security Affairs of India

Krishnaswamy Subrahmanyam was an Indian Civil Servant, a prominent International Strategic Affairs Analyst, and a journalist. His opinion was valued and weighed heavily in the matters of Indian security affairs. He advocated India to have the nuclear deterrent capability which created quite a buzz and controversy. Krishnaswamy Subrahmanyam played a prominent influence and role in framing Indian Security and Nuclear Policy. He voiced his opinion on the global stage both as a policymaker and a journalist. Institute for Defense and Analyses, New Delhi appointed him as a second director.

A Doyen of Strategic Affair

He was also one of the most prominent members of numerous Indian government committees and commissions of inquiry especially those including a war between India and Pakistan. The Government of India accredited Subrahmanyam with prestigious Padma Bhushan Award in the year 1999 but he declined the honor stating that bureaucrats and journalists should not accept government awards. He voiced in favor of Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement in 2007.

Early Life of Krishnaswamy Subrahmanyam

Krishnaswamy Subrahmanyam undeniably was the man who left a strong impression on the whole nation for being an extraordinary human. His father was a teacher and administrator. For this, his father had to move from place to place in regional Madras and he had to go with him wherever he went. ‘Mani’ & ‘Ambi’ are the nicknames given to him by his family. Subrahmanyam early life was spent in a house that neither had electricity or a radio. He grew up in Tiruchirappalli and Madras.

Krishnaswamy Subrahmanyam got MSc degree in Chemistry in the year 1950 from Presidency College under the University of Madras.

Professional Life

Krishnaswamy Subrahmanyam appeared for Civil Services Examination in the same year i.e. 1950 in which he received his MSc degree and stood first. He got the commission of an IAS officer in the year 1951 in Tamil Nadu cadre. In the year 1966, the Defense Ministry appointed him as a fellow in Strategic Studies at the London School of Economics. After he came back from England, he was given a newly created post of a Director at Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis (IDSA), New Delhi. He retained the post as a director until 1975. Thereafter, he went to many senior positions such as, Chairman of Joint Intelligence Committee, New Delhi; 4th Member in Board of Revenue, Tamil Nadu; Home Secretary, Tamil Nadu; Additional Secretary & Cabinet Secretary, New Delhi; and Union Secretary for Defense Production in the Ministry of Defense.

K. Subrahmanyam returned to his very first native post as a Director of the IDSA in 1980. In the year 1987, he went back to England as a Nehru Fellow and visiting Professor at St. John’s College Cambridge. During his era 1974 – 1986, he also served on numerous UN and other multilateral study groups. Being a senior member, he also served on issues such as disarmament and nuclear deterrence, Indian Ocean affairs and also at various other conferences.

Journalism and Writing

A unique characteristic of K. Subrahmanyam was to voice his views in the form of writing much against the prevailing anarchy. It was after K. Subrahmanyam retired in the late eighties, he worked as a policy expert and consulting editor for many Indian magazine and newspapers. It becomes more significant in the way he lived his life, he never employed any secretary help but used to work alone except some occasional typist help.

Subrahmanyam penned down fourteen books as an author and co-author.

Personal Life

Although K. Subrahmanyam was a non-believer he could recite and quote at length from Hindu religious texts. He remained a staunch vegetarian throughout his life. He saw no distinction between nationalism and internationalism and therefore no contradiction in it. He has liberal views in regards to arranged marriage, education and professional opportunities. Rather than to feel uncomfortable, he took pride in sharing that his children and grandchildren were historians, economists, architects, filmmakers, civil servants, diplomats, and lawyers married to people who were Japanese, Dutch, French, and American.


Written By: Milan Bhardwaj


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