Braj Kumar Nehru

BRAJ Kumar Nehru, an Indian diplomat who was close to becoming the United Nations’ second secretary-general, has died. He was 92.

Born into the family that produced India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, he served as India’s ambassador to the United States and Britain.

He declined the UN leadership post that went to Dag Hammerskjold of Sweden in 1953, according to his secretary, RK Saxena. Nehru’s book, Nice Guys Finish Second, refers to the episode and other details of his career.

In a message of condolence to Nehru’s widow, Shobha, the Indian president, KR Narayanan said: "With his brilliant mind and sterling qualities of independence and integrity, Shri Nehru nurtured a tradition of good governance in new India."

While members of his family were imprisoned in the campaign for India’s freedom, Nehru joined the Indian Civil Service in 1934, which was run by the British. He told his examiners that if he could not help his people by performing his job, he would resign. He said his honesty got him the job.

Lamenting the growth of corruption and lack of service in the civil service in independent India, he said in a 1999 speech: "I had to remember that I was not a ruler of the people, but their servant, working for their benefit."

He represented India at the post-Second World War reparations conference and the sterling balances negotiations with Britain.

In the 1960s, he became governor of India’s seven northeastern states, plus Kashmir in the north and Gujarat in the west.

He was chairman of the United Nations Investment Committee for 14 years, and was proud that the staff pension fund assets increased from $147 million to $10 billion while he was a member of the committee.

Nehru was educated at Allahabad University, the LSE and Oxford. He was also a barrister-at-law at the Inner Temple in London.