26/07/2016 1:19 PM IST | Updated 26/07/2016 9:40 PM IST

Arundhati Ghose, Diplomat Who Played Decisive Role In India's Nuclear Future, Passes Away

Arundhati Ghose was famous for the phrase, "not now, not later".

STR New / Reuters
Indian ambassador Arundhati Ghose gestures in the conference room of Geneva's UN building prior to talks on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which would prohibit nuclear explosion and which was to have been agreed on Friday, June 28. The Indian envoy said that it was

Ace diplomat Arundhati Ghose, who was India's ambassador to the United Nations passed away last night. The news of her death was reported by her niece, journalist Sagarika Ghose, on Twitter.

Born in 1940, Ghose grew up in Mumbai and later attended Lady Brabourne College in Kolkata, followed by Visva-Bharati University in Santiniketan, Bolpur. She joined the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) in 1963. Her sister is Ruma Pal, a former Supreme Court judge, and her brother is Bhaskar Ghose, also a well-known officer with the Indian Administrative Service who was the head of public broadcaster Prasar Bharti.

Ghose was posted to various European countries during her career as a diplomat, including Austria, South Korea, Egypt and the Netherlands. She was also the first Indian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Offices in Geneva. But it was in her role as the head of India's delegation to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) conference in Geneva in 1996 that she came into the limelight.

During the proceedings, Ghose spoke up strongly against unfair pressure on India to sign a deal that many other Western nuclear powers were reluctant to commit to. ''Mr. President, I would like to declare on the floor of this august assembly that India will never sign this unequal treaty -- not now, not later,'' Ghose said. As The New York Times reported, she called the treaty ''not only a flawed one but a dangerous one'' that would "encourage a new kind of nuclear arms race, one in sophisticated laboratories out of reach of most nations".

Always proud of India's nuclear capacity, Ghose was critical of the way the Pokhran tests carried out by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1998. "After conducting the tests, I expected the prime minister to go on TV and radio and tell the country exactly why he had done the tests, and on what to expect," she said in an interview to Rediff. "On the contrary, the government has not taken the people into confidence. I am astounded by the fact that the government only cares for the scientists' view."

Ghose was the key liaison to the Bangladesh government in exile in Calcutta in 1971, chosen to fulfil the role primarily for her knowledge of Bengali. She spoke about those years at length in this interview years later.

Ghose was much admired among the diplomatic corps for her sharp intelligence and plain speak. "Her sterling performance in Geneva is one of the best examples of public diplomacy and made us all proud," diplomat G. Parthasarathy told The Huffington Post. "She also had a fine sense of humour," he recalled.

Former diplomat Lalit Mansingh, who was the same batch as Ghose, entered the civil services with her in 1963. "She was a live wire, always intellectually active, sophisticated, ready to add to discussions with her inputs," he said. Mansingh remembered visiting Ghose in Seoul and Cairo, while she was ambassador to South Korea and Egypt, respectively. "We were part of the think tank circuit after retirement from the services," he said. "I would say she was one of the most distinguished diplomats India has ever had."

The vice-president, Hamid Ansari, condoled Ghose's demise in a message, describing her as "an eminent diplomat" who "will be remembered for her services to the nation."

Generous tributes were paid to her on Twitter by journalists, common people and members of the civil services.