K Natwar Singh

Kunwar Natwar Singh, IFS is an Indian diplomat and politician who served as the Minister of External Affairs from May 2004 to December 2005. Singh was selected into the Indian Foreign Service in 1953.

India: Reviving Congress

What a week where the Congress party has all but made a laughing stock of itself. Ashok Gehlot has landed himself in serious trouble. He is 71. A comeback is unlikely.

He has been an active, reliable, astute leader, with a mass following. I have known him for over 40 years and have great affection and regard for him. In these four decades he did not put a foot wrong. The “neutral” Sonia Gandhi obviously knows Dante well, who wrote, nine hundred years ago, “The hottest place in Hell are reserved for those who in time of great moral crises maintain their neutrality”. She shed her neutrality in no time. So long as she lives, she will have deity status. She is an expert at back seat driving. Can she revive the Congress? No.

Of the two contenders for president of the Congress party, Mallikarjun Kharge and Shri Shashi Tharoor, I have never met the former. He is 80 years of age. The younger voters will certainly not opt for him. Shashi Tharoor, I have known him for several years. He is a fine orator and an outstanding author. He deserves to win. But he will not. He does not have the blessings of Mother Superior. Besides, unlike Kharge he is not rooted in the Congress. Oddly, none of the G-23 are supporting him.

Digvijaya Singh has been deprived of the Presidentship by Shri Kharge, who did not play fair with the former CM of Madhya Pradesh. He would have, as President put some life in Congress. Surprisingly he made one serious mistake. As far as I know, he did not meet Shrimati Sonia Gandhi. He paid the price.
The Lok Sabha elections are to be held in 2024. At present the Congress party had fifty-two members in the Lok Sabha. That number is not likely to go up as of now. Not with Kharge at the helm.

PM Narendra Modi will remain Prime Minister till 2029. His international standing is high. Within India he faces no challenge.

Shri Mohan Bhagwat, the head of RSS, made headlines when he met Imam Umer Ahmed Illyas a few days back. It was a courageous and wise move. It would have given millions of Muslims much comfort. How many non-RSS non-BJP Indians recall the fact that during the rule of the Bhartiya Janata Party, since 2014, not a single communal riot has occurred? This is amazing achievement.

The External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar has done India proud at the United Nations and during his visit to Washington. He did not mince words, without flouting diplomacy. I would give him high marks for his stellar performance. One caveat. He is over optimistic about the United States genuinely asserting itself to make India a permanent veto-wielding member of the United Nations Security Council. The brutal reality is that the People’s Republic of China will always exercise its veto to keep India out. If I am not mistaken, President Joe Biden in one of his speeches said that India and Brazil should be Permanent Members of the Security Council.

The reality is somewhat what more complicated. Any expansion of the Council must include a country from Sub-Saharan Africa and the Muslim world. Who from Africa—Nigeria, Ethiopia or South Africa? From the Muslim World the contenders will be Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt.

The most alarming problem the world is facing is climate change. One has only to look at the havoc rain and hurricanes are playing in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. In Switzerland, glaciers are melting, in Italy, rivers are drying up. For nature’s fury no easy answers are in sight.

The recent floods in Pakistan have been a calamity. As often happens, the poor have been worst hit. Pakistan was a near bankrupt country. Only the rich Islamic countries can provide funds to rebuild the infrastructure, colleges, schools, hospitals, industries. It’s a long haul.

India, in a few years, will become the most populous country in the world. Yet, no one is seriously talking about it. No talks of birth control, none of population control. Yes, poverty has been vastly eradicated but the quality of life has not improved. Educational standards are low. The legal system needs to be made more efficient. Civil cases go on for decades. We have some of the best doctors in the world but the hospitals are in need of drastic upgradation.

The great Jawaharlal Nehru is to some extent responsible for India becoming an over populated country. Soon after taking over, he made the astounding pronouncement that India was an under populated country. By the time of his death it was on the road leading to over population.

Future of British monarchy


Jawaharlal Nehru attended the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1952. The Commonwealth was than a small organisation. The Queen became Head of Commonwealth the same year. Till 1947 it was a white man’s club: United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. India and Pakistan became members on becoming independent. Ceylon followed in 1948. In 1957, Ghana became the eighth member.

Government has taken the correct decision for President Droupadi Murmu to represent India at the funeral of the Queen. She will get to know many of her counterparts. Several hundred Heads of State and Government have been invited. Most will be in London by the 18 September. Will President Xi of China and President Putin attend? The funeral is on the 19th.

No country can outdo the United Kingdom in planning and organising ceremonial events. The late Queen’s journey from Buckingham Place to Westminster Hall on 14 September was as memorable as it was spectacular.

The world is running out of monarchies. UK, Japan, followed by Cambodia, Thailand, Brunei, the Malay Kingdoms, Bhutan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Kingdoms. The last eight are not democracies.

Has the British monarchy a future? The Queen was widely admired, popular and respected. King Charles III is not endowed with these indispensable qualities. I have met him three or four times. The first time in February 1975 in New Delhi. He was accompanied by Lord Mountbatten. They stayed in New Delhi for two days.

I was then Deputy High Commissioner in London. I came to New Delhi a couple of days before the arrival of Prince Charles and Uncle Dickie. They left Delhi for Kathmandu after two days to attend the coronation of the King of Nepal. By then, Charles was somewhat irritated with Mountbatten.

At Palam airport, Prince Charles took me aside and said, “I would very much like to come again in October for a longer stay. If that is convenient to you, but without Uncle Dickie.”

“Your Royal Highness, you are most welcome.”

King Charles III is 73 years of age. Will he attain the age of his mother? That will certainly prolong the life of Britain’s monarchy.

India at 75: Indian I was born; Indian I shall die


India of 2022 is spectacularly different from the India of 1947. There is one vital element that has remained active, unchanged—democracy.

I am 18 years older than Independent India. I remember vividly keeping awake till midnight of 14/15 August 1947 to listen to Jawaharlal Nehru’s never to be forgotten speech.

“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the World sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends and when the soul of a nation long suppressed finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the larger cause of humanity…”

This was great and moving English, but 80% Indians did not understand it. Nehru also disregarded the fact that half of the world was wide awake. A majority of the members of the Constituent Assembly present in the Central Hall of Parliament understood English. The applause was thunderous. That speech of Nehru lives in our hearts and minds. India of 2022 is spectacularly different from the India of 1947. There is one vital element that has remained active, unchanged—democracy. That miracle has been endowed to the nation by the people of India, not by its elite.

The Indian Freedom Movement under the unique leadership of Mahatma Gandhi was one among the historical and unforgettable events of the 20th century.

India’s Freedom Movement inspired other countries under British, French, Dutch, Portuguese and Spain’s imperial/colonial rule.

In 1947, Africa had three independent countries, South of Sahara, Ethiopia, South Africa—dedicated to perpetual white rule, even though three fourth of the population was non-white. The third was Liberia. Several African leaders admired Gandhiji, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Chief Lithuli of South Africa. Ahmed Kathrada, a colleague of Mandela, all mention Gandhiji in their memoirs. Kathrada spent 27 years in jail with Mandela. He writes, “My own views on multiculturalism are best summed up in a passage by Gandhiji: I want the culture of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to blown off my feet by any.”

Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana led the freedom struggle in his colonised country by following Gandhian methods, “I described Positive Action as the legitimate and constitutional means…. Non-cooperation based on the principle of absolute non-violence as used by Gandhi in India.”

Lech Walesa, the Polish leader of the movement called, “Solidarity” and future President mentions Gandhiji several times in his autobiography, “The Struggle and the Triumph”. I met him in Warsaw and in New Delhi, when he paid a state visit to India.

How do I see the future of India? Unlike the chronic pessimists and congenital grumblers, I am confident of a brighter future for our country. India will become a world power, working in a balanced way for the establishment of world peace and goodwill. Poverty will become a memory and so will joblessness. It goes to the credit of the Narendra Modi government that not a single serious communal riot has occurred in the past decade.

I do not have time for those of our countrymen and women who rush to the United States. After completing their education a majority accept the status of second class citizens. One or two make it to State Legislatures or House of Representatives. Some succeed in business, but Mother India is no longer a priority. They encounter not so subtle racism and put up with it.

Some even acquire various kinds of accents, which sound phoney and grating. They have made their choice. Good luck, but no respect from this corner. Indian I was born and Indian I shall die.