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Phillips Talbot on the Jinnah book controversy

Last updated on: August 28, 2009 

Phillips Talbot on the Jinnah book controversy

When the controversy over Jaswant Singh's book on Mohammad Ali Jinnah blew up in the former external affairs minister's face, we knew there were only a handful of people still alive who personally knew the founder of Pakistan.

One of those who witnessed first-hand the unforgettable drama of the Partition of India is New York-based Phillips Talbot.

In 1938, the Institute of Current World Affairs in New York awarded the then 23-year-old Talbot a scholarship to spend time in India learning about the country.

The young, enthusiastic American attended crucial meetings of the Indian National Congress and the All India Muslim League's Lahore session at which the Pakistan resolution was adopted in 1940.

He came to know M K Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Jinnah and several other leaders. His book An American Witness to India's Partition is a magnificient account of those tumultuous events and larger than life personalities.

A president of the Asia Society (for 12 years, from 1970 to 1982), an ex-US assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs and a former US ambassador to Greece, Talbot has been honoured with the Padma Shri.

Twelve years ago, was privileged to publish his memories of Partition, which you can read here.

In this video interview with Rediff India Abroad Editor, Features, Arthur J Pais and recorded by Chief Photographer Paresh Gandhi in New York, Talbot -- who turned 93 on June 7 and traveled to Mumbai two years ago for an Asia Society event -- shares his views about Jaswant Singh's controversial book.

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Image: Phillips Talbot
Video: `