Conferencing the International


List of profiled attendees at the Round Table Conference. For a full list of delegates to each session, see the British Library's Round Table Conference records page.

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KM Panikkar

Full nameSardar Kavalam Madhava Panikkar, BA (Oxon) (aka Sirdar Kavalam Madhuvan Panikkar)
Born13 May 1894, Kavalam, Kingdom of Travancore, India
Died10 Dec 1963, Mysore, India

Born in a small village in Travancore, Kavalam Madhava Panikkar was educated in schools in Trivandrum, Thalavadi, Kottayam and Madras, before in 1914 travelling to study History at Christ Church College, Oxford. Returning to India in 1918, Panikkar was appointed Lecturer in History at the Anglo-Indian College, from 1920 Aligarh Muslim University. In 1922 he quit academia for journalism, becoming editor of first Swarajya and from 1924 the Hindustan Times. In 1925 he resigned, went to London, enrolled at Middle Temple, conducted research across Europe, and published a book on the Indian States. This attracted the attention of Haksar, who in 1927 secured Panikkar a position as adviser to the Maharaja of Kashmir.

Panikkar acted as Joint Secretary to the British Indian delegation at the conference.


  • December 1927: Pannikar joined the Special Organization, created to supply information to the Butler Committee, inquiring into the Indian States. Panikkar joined Haksar, and Rushbrook-Williams. (Moore, 1974:32)
  • 1928: Panikkar, under the pseudonym Kerala Putra, published a critical reading of the 1919 Government of India Act dyarchy reforms, focusing on the relationship between the constitution and the social and political life of the Indian people: 
    • “People now clamour for social reform, that is the interference of the State in the customs and institutions of the people. Their complaint now is that the British Government does not lend its support to the efforts that are being made to re-order society. And this is but natural. So long as the State was merely a tax-collecting machine, ensuring peace and safety, freedom for the individual could not mean anything else… But the State has long ago ceased to be a mere tax-collecting machine. Modern life makes a superimposed state an impossibility. A state has to educate, legislate, and control a man in a hundred other ways…” (Kerala Putra 1928:113)
  • Summer of 1930: Haksar and Panikkar pioneered federation as an alternative means of addressing concerns over the paramountcy of the British. They spent the summer, and their time in London, campaigning for federation. (Copland, 1997:79-80, 88)
  • 18th August 1930, Haksar and Panikkar completed Federal India, in part a response to the disappointments of the July Simla Conference between the Viceory and Princes that summer. The majority was written by Panikkar, with Haksar making some amendments and adding an introduction. (Moore, 1974:140) 
    • Haksar and Panikkar audaciously argued that the divisions between British and Princely India was not a block to federation. On the contrary, it was proof that India was already, as they put it, "...semi federal" (Haksar & Panikkar, 1930:36). What it lacked was the judicial machinery to effect closer cooperate and to protect Princely autonomy. While they might admit that the people of the States and British India had no association (and thus none of the sense of shared personhood necessary to make a federation work, Haksar & Panikkar, 1930:39) they could still insist that a federal Indian constitution in India would merely involve the formal ratification of existing conditions and the creation of appropriate institutions (Haksar & Panikkar, 1930:41, 147-150).
  • 29th October 1930: Moonje recorded meeting Panikkar at a dinner, where he was flattered to be referred to by Pannikar as a Maratha fighter and diplomat, but Moonje commented that he had no personality and doubted he would excel in executive positions, but would make a good head clerk. (NMML. Moonje Diary)
  • 2nd November 1930: a deal with British Indian delegates was presented to the Indian States delegates. On 7th November Haig messaged the Viceroy informing him the problem at hand could be about to be completely transformed.

First Session

  • In Panikkar’s autobiography he recalled of the first conference session: “I reached London in September. There is no need for me to recount the story of the Round Table Conference. As the secretary of the princes' delegation, I too had a minor part in these deliberations. I derived in addition an opportunity to get to know at closer quarters many Indian leaders like Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Mr Srinivasa Sastri, Mr Jinnah, Sir Mohamed Zafrullah and others. I also gained the acquaintance and friendship of British parliamentarians such as Sir Samuel Hoare (later Lord Templewood), Lord Sankey, Isaac Foot and others.” (Panikkar 1977: 84)
  • 25th November 1930: RJ Stopford, the Conservative delegation Secretary, recorded a conversation with Panikkar, who felt that the communal discussions were going badly, in part due to Muslim delegates refusing to give up majority representation in the Punjab and Bengal. Delegates were also said to fear Reading, and to take seriously rumours that India Office officials were attempting to discourse the princes from joining a federation (British Library: E346)
  • Feb 1931: Panikkar appointed Secretary to Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes

Second Session

  • 6th September 1931: Sarojini Naidu wrote to her children en route to London, describing “Panikkar, brilliant, versatile, of extraordinary charm, wit and perhaps unreliability;”
  • 16th September 1931: RJ Stopford recorded a conversation with Panikkar, who suggested that the Princes could not afford to resist Gandhi for long, given the latter’s growing popularity amongst the people of the Indian States. Gandhi had reportedly given the Princes a guarantee that he would not break up the conference regarding the terms of how they chose to relate to the proposed federation. (British Library: E346)


  • Panikkar continued to attempt to sway the implementation of the RTC recommendations via his publications, such as The New Empire: letters to a Conservative Member of Parliament on the future of England and India(Panikkar, 1934, p. 3), which continued his much earlier arguments regarding dyarchy, and the connections between law and life: 
    • “Dominion status is only a constitutional relationship. It does not touch the vital aspects of policy with which both Britain and India are most deeply concerned. The status of a Dominion India undoubtedly desires and is entitled to; but that only shifts the solution of the problem to a different plane. The questions of political association of the British and Indian communities in India, of their economic collaboration in the development of India, and the bases of permanent social and cultural relationships are left untouched”
  • 1933-39: Foreign Minister, Patiala; held concurrently with his secretaryship of the Chamber. Spent time in London working on amendments to India Bill.
  • 1939-44: Foreign Minister, Bikaner State
  • 1942: Indian States’ Representative to the Pacific Relations Conference
  • 1944–47: Prime Minister, Bikaner State. Received the Rajput title of ‘Sardar’
  • 1945: Indian States’ Representative to the Commonwealth Relations Conference
  • 1947: Member Indian Delegation to UN General Assembly Session
  • 1948–52: Ambassador of India in China
  • 1952–53: Ambassador of India in Egypt and Minister for India accredited to the Lebanon, Syria and Libya
  • 1954–55: Member, States Reorganisation Commission
  • 1956–59: Indian Ambassador to France
  • 1957: Chairman, UNESCO Advisory Committee, Major Project for Eastern and Western Cultural Values

Sources used

  • National Archives, New Delhi: Reforms/1930/147/30-R
  • British Library: IOR/Eur.Mss/E346/9.
  • Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi: Dr BS Moonje papers.
  • R.J. Moore, The Crisis of Indian Unity, 1917-1940 (Oxford: Clarendon Press; 1974)
  • Ian Copland, The Princes of India in the Endgame of Empire, 1917-1947 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 1997)
  • Makarand Paranjape (Ed.), Sarojini Naidu: Selected Letters 1890s to 1940s (New Delhi: Kali for Women; 2010)
  • Stephen Legg, "Dyarchy: Democracy, Autocracy and the Scalar Sovereignty of Interwar India", Comparative Studies in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 36:1 (2016), pp. 44-65:

Selected works

Secondary literature

  • Who Was Who:
  • The Times, “Sardar K.M. Panikkar”, Issue Number 55881 (11 Dec 1963), p. 15
  • Times of India, “Recognition of Peking: Panikkar’s Role” (11 Dec 1963), p. 9
  • Tarasankar Banerjee, Sardar K.M. Panikkar: The Profile of A Historian (A Study in Modern Indian Historiography) (Calcutta: Ratna Prakashan; 1977):
  • M.L. Ahuja, “K.M. Panikkar“, in Great Administrators of India (Delhi: Kalpaz Publications; 2009), pp. 19-31
  • Rita Paolini, “An Indian Student in Oxford during World War I: Kavalam M. Panikkar between Nationalism and Princely States” Monde(s) 1:9 (2016), pp. 59-74 :

Online resources

ImagesMonochrome photograph of Kovalam Madhava Panikkar by Bassano Ltd, 1931

Kovalam Madhava Panikkar by Bassano Ltd, whole-plate glass negative, 22 September 1931. NPG x150110 / CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 (

Conferencing the International

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