K. Natwar Singh

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Natwar Singh
K Natwar Singh.jpg
Minister of External Affairs of India
In office
22 May 2004 – 6 December 2005
Preceded by Yashwant Sinha
Succeeded by Manmohan Singh
Personal details
Born (1931-05-16) 16 May 1931 (age 83)
Jaghina, Bharatpur, British India (present-day Rajasthan, India)
Nationality Indian
Political party Congress
Spouse(s) Heminder Kaur
Residence New Delhi
Alma mater Mayo College, Ajmer
Occupation Politician
Religion Hinduism

Kunwar Natwar Singh (born May 16, 1931) is an Indian politician and former cabinet minister. On December 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. The U.N. Independent Enquiry Committee (popularly known as Volcker committee) named his Indian National Congress party and him as beneficieries of illegal payoffs in Iraqi oil scam, resulting in his forced resignation from the Cabinet on December 6, 2005.[1]

He is married to the daughter of Yadavindra Singh of Patiala Heminder Kaur, and is hence brother-in-law to Amarinder Singh, a former chief minister of Punjab.

Early life and education[edit]

Singh comes from a Jat family of Bharatpur in Rajasthan.[2] He 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[edit]

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.

Political career[edit]

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. His son Jagat Singh 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 and Jagat were expelled from BSP for indulging in anti-party activities and were accused of indiscipline and lack of faith in the Bahujan Samaj Movement. Natwar Singh was demanding a Rajya Sabha seat which was refused, four months after he joined Uttar Pradesh's ruling party.

Oil for Food scandal[edit]

Singh was removed from the post on December 6, 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 under Paul Volcker had reported on October 27, 2005 that he and his son Jagat Singh were non-contractual beneficiaries of the Oil for Food programme.[3] 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. 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.[4]

This scandal represented a serious crisis for the ruling coalition. On March 26, 2006 it was reported 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.[5]

In 2008, Natwar Singh resigned membership in the Congress Party after earlier having his membership suspended.[6]

One Life is Not Enough[edit]

In August, 2014, the autobiographical account of Natwar Singh "One Life is Not Enough" was released.[7][8] The book is no holds barred account of his political career providing an insider view on the various machinations of Delhi's political circles. The book covers revelation of sensitive developments during Indira Gandhi's, Rajiv Gandhi's, Narasimha Rao's and Manmohan Singh's regimes. The book also deals about Natwar Singh's close political relationship with Indian National Congress president Sonia Gandhi.[9] The book also gives Natwar Singh's account of the controversial Volcker report and the various political motions that took place in the background leading up to his resignation. The book is being called a Nuclear Bomb because it is expected to reveal even more about the inner workings of the Congress and its first family. Hence there was immense speculation on whether Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi's visit to Natwar Singh days before the release was timed at reconciliation and to avoid a deeper embarrassment to themselves from revelations in the book [10].

Books published[edit]

  1. E.M.Forster : A Tribute,(On Forster's Eighty Fifth Birthday), editor, with Contributions by Ahmed Ali, Narayana Menon, Raja Rao & Santha Rama Rau, 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.
  10. Walking with Lions: Tales from a Diplomatic Past, Released by Hamid Ansari, March, 2013.
  11. One Life is Not Enough: An Autobiography [11][12], August, 2014.


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