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Natwar Singh


In office
22 May 2004 – 6 November 2005
Preceded by Yashwant Sinha
Succeeded by Manmohan Singh

Born 16 May 1931 (1931-05-16) (age 78)
Jaghina, Bharatpur, Rajastan, India
Nationality Indian
Political party Congress
Spouse(s) Roopinder Kaur
Relations Maharaja Yadavindra Singh (Father-in-law)
Maharaja Amarinder Singh (Brother-in-law)
Children Jagat Singh
Residence New Delhi, India
Alma mater Mayo College
Scindia School
Occupation Politician
Religion Hindu

Kunwar Natwar Singh, popularly known as K. Natwar Singh (born May 16, 1931, Jaghina, Bharatpur, Rajastan, India) is an Indian politician and former cabinet minister. On November 7, 2005, he was removed from his post as Minister in charge of External Affairs under a cloud of scandal and became a minister without portfolio. Named by the U.N. Independent Enquiry Committee (popularly known as Volcker committee) as a beneficiary of illegal payoffs in Iraqi oil scam, he was forced to resign from the Cabinet on December 6, 2005.

He is married to the daughter of His Highness Maharaja Adhiraj Yadavindra Singh, the late Maharaja of Patiala Maharajkumari Roopinder Kaur, and is hence brother-in-law to Captain His Highness Maharaja Adhiraj Amarinder Singh, the current Maharaja of Patiala and a former chief minister of Punjab.

Contents

Education and early life

Natwar Singh attended Mayo College and Scindia School,Gwalior. He was an undergraduate at St. Stephen's College, Delhi. He subsequently studied at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge University and at Peking University in China.

Diplomatic career

Singh joined the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) in 1953 and served for 31 years. One of his earliest assignments was in Beijing, China (1956-58). He was then posted to New York with the Permanent Mission of India, (1961-66) and as India's representative to Executive Board of UNICEF, (1962-66). Singh served on several important UN committees between 1963 and 1966. In 1966, he was posted to the Prime Minister's Secretariat under Mrs Indira Gandhi. Singh was part of the Indian delegation to the Heads of Commonwealth Meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, 1975. He was an Indian Delegate to the 30th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York, Heads of Commonwealth Meeting, Lusaka, Zambia in 1979 and the 35th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York. Singh accompanied Ms. Indira Gandhi on her State visit to the U.S. in 1982. He served as Executive Trustee, United Nations Institute for Training and Research (U.N.I.T.A.R.) appointed by the Secretary-General, United Nations for six years (1981-86). He also served on the Expert Group appointed by the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, London in 1982 He was appointed Secretary-General of the Seventh Non-aligned summit in New Delhi held in 1983 and Chief Coordinator of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in New Delhi in the same year. He served as Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs from March 1982 to November 1984.

He received the Padma Bhushan, a distinguished award from the government of the India, in 1984.

Career as politician

In 1984 Singh joined the Congress Party and was elected to the eighth Lok Sabha from Bharatpur constituency in Rajasthan. In 1985 he became a minister of state in Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's council with the portfolios of steel, coal and mines, and agriculture. In 1986, he became minister of state for external affairs i.e. in charge of foreign relations and stayed in this post until 1989, when the government was defeated in the general elections. He was then elected President of the UN Conference on Disarmament and Development held in New York in 1987. He led the Indian delegation to the 42nd Session of the UN General Assembly.

In the 1989 general elections, he contested and lost the Mathura seat.

During the Narsimha Rao Government Singh, along with Arjun Singh & N D Tiwari, had differences with Narsimha Rao and thence left the Congress Party to form the All India Indira Congress (Tiwari). Singh returned in the twelfth Lok Sabha again in 1998 from Bharatpur, but this time in opposition. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha from Rajasthan in 2002 and when the Congress came back to power, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appointed him to the cabinet as Minister for External affairs on May 23. He had a controversial tenure and was widely criticized for his allegedly intemperate remarks. He was later suspended and then had to resign from the government in the wake of the Iraqi food-for-oil scam (Jagat was also expelled from the Congress). Natwar made the announcement in the presence of Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia at a Bharatiya Janata Party-sponsored Jat rally in Vidyadhar Nagar. He also launched a blistering attack on Sonia Gandhi.

Thereafter, in mid 2008 both Natwar and his son joined Mayawati's BSP only to be expelled later in November,2008. He & Jagat were expelled by the BSP for indulging in anti-party activities and was accused of indiscipline and lack of faith in the Bahujan samaj movement (he was demanding a Rajya Sabha seat which was refused), four months after he joined Uttar Pradesh's ruling party.

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Scandal

The first touch of scandal occurred with the sudden & mysterious death of Natwar Singh's estranged daughter-in-law Natasha Singh, who was found dead under cloudy circumstances - the first news reports stated the police as saying that she had been shot in the chest but after a few hours they changed the satement to say that it was suicide. Only a few months later Natwar Singh's daughter Ritu Singh was also found dead at the Singh's Vasant Vihar residence again under mysterious and cloudy circumstances. Then a lesser known fact, once again within a period of a few months the late Natasha Singh's father had gone missing after making a visit to Nepal, never to be found till date. All through this period Natwar Singh's son Jagat Singh did not help matters as he was repeatedly involved in violent situations of smashing beer bottles on Mr. Vinay Kapoor's head at a party, then subsequesntly allegedly having Mr. Kapoor beaten to the point of hospitalization, all due to the fact that Mr. Kapoor had gotten very close to Natasha Singh, Jagat's then estranged wife. Then later Jagat Singh was involved in an incident in Manali where an illegally appointed Govt. security guard happened to fire some rounds during a brawl involving Jagat Singh. Jagat then proceeded to have an affair with his childhood friend Andaleeb Sehgal's married sister Somaya (mother of two) and, caused her to divorce her longtime husband of 10 years.

Singh was removed from the post on November 7, 2005 (though retaining a cabinet role as minister without portfolio) following a controversy over his alleged involvement in the United Nations Iraqi Oil for Food scandal. The Independent Inquiry Committee [1] under Paul Volcker had reported[2] on October 27, 2005 that he and his son Jagat Singh were non-contractual beneficiaries of the Oil for Food programme. Allegedly, they, along with Jagat Singh's childhood friend Andaleeb Sehgal, were associated with a company called Hamdan Exports, which acted as an intermediary for illegal sales of oil to a Swiss firm named Masefield AG. Allegedly. In return, Masefield had to pay kickbacks, (termed "surcharges") partly to Saddam Hussein's regime and partly to Natwar Singh and others. It was alleged that such surcharges were Hussein's way of securing support from politicians around the world and that this influenced Natwar Singh to lobby against US policies in Iraq (in particular, US sanctions on Saddam Hussein). This controversy heated up when Anil Mathrani, then Indian Ambassador to Croatia, and a close aide to Natwar Singh alleged that Natwar Singh had used an official visit to Iraq to procure oil coupons for Jagat Singh from Saddam's regime. The Congress party distanced itself from him and on December 6, 2005, he resigned from the cabinet [3].

This scandal represented a serious crisis for the ruling coalition. Natwar Singh was severely criticised for alleged indecision on key aspects of Indian Foreign policy to save his career [4]. On March 26, 2006 it was reported in Times of India [5] that the Indian Enforcement Directorate (ED), investigating the money trail in the 'oil-for-food' scam, had finally tracked a sum of Rs 8 crore transferred from London-based NRI businessman Aditya Khanna's bank account to his own NRI account in a Delhi bank and later withdrawn from this account to be allegedly distributed among Indian beneficiaries of the scam.

Top ED sources identified the money as proceeds from the oil-for-food transaction which was remitted to India after paying commission to Masefield, the Swiss firm which lifted oil from the quota which, according to the Volcker report, had been allotted to former external affairs minister Natwar Singh. The Khannas are relatives of Natwar Singh and represent a branch of the Phulkyan clan, which includes Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh.

On August 8, Natwar Singh was suspended from the primary membership of Congress Party for moving privilege motion against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the issue of leakage of Justice Pathak Committee report. The disciplinary committee meeting was chaired by A.K Anthony.

Controversial actions and statements

K. Natwar Singh has been noted as a controversial figure in Indian foreign policy for his actions and statements on various topics:

Stand on Iraq

In June 2004, he made a statement about India being willing to review its stand on sending troops to Iraq after the unanimous resolution of the United Nations. "There is a resolution of the last Parliament on this issue in which we had given our opinion that we were against sending troops to Iraq. Now the situation has changed. There is a resolution unanimously passed in the United Nations and there are Arab members in it. We will look at it very carefully. But I must emphasize that this matter will have to be placed before the government at the highest levels, so it would be premature for me to say aye or nay", he said after a 60-minute meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. He has been criticized by the chief opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party for these remarks and for making contradictory statements on India's policy on Pakistan.

Pakistan

He visited Pakistan for the first time after becoming India's external affairs minister in July 2004 and held bilateral talks with his Pakistani counterpart and took the peace process forward.

United States of America

Again in June 2004, he made his first trip to the U.S. after becoming India's foreign minister and met with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. Even though the two discussed India's stand on Iraq, the prime reason Singh was in the U.S. was to represent India at the state funeral of former U.S. president Ronald Reagan.

In April 2005, he became the first Indian foreign minister to meet the United States President in the Oval Office of the White House. On September 23, 2005 he made his first and only public appearance, appearing at Brown University.

Books published

  1. E.M.Forster : A Tribute, New York, 1964
  2. The Legacy of Nehru, New York, 1965
  3. Tales from Modern India, New York, 1966
  4. Stories from India, London, 1971
  5. Maharaja Suraj Mal (1707-63), London, 1981
  6. Curtain Raisers, Delhi,1984
  7. Profiles & Letters, Delhi, 1997
  8. The Magnificent Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala (1891-1938), Delhi, 1997
  9. Heart to Heart, Delhi, 2003.

References

  • "Indian FM: I will not resign". (November 6, 2005). New Sunday Times, p. 33.
  • "Natwar stripped of foreign portfolio". (November 8, 2005). New Straits Times, p. 34.

External links

Preceded by
Yashwant Sinha
Minister for External Affairs of India
2004–2005
Succeeded by
Manmohan Singh

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