Man under fire

Updated: Jan 1 2006, 05:30am hrs
Union minister K Natwar Singh announced his resignation from the Union cabinet on December 6, 2005, saying he did not want to be an excuse for the opposition to stall Parliament. So, I have decided to tender resignation from the Union Council of Ministers despite the fact that I have not violated any law in letter and spirit, he said.

I reiterate that I am completely innocent and no charge has been framed or brought up against me. However, Parliament and Congress are above individuals. Singh was relieved of the external affairs portfolio on November 7 after the Volcker Report was released accusing him of having paid kickbacks to Saddam Hussein.

Singh, as well as the Congress Party, are listed in the fifth and final report of the UNs Independent Inquiry Committee as non-contractual beneficiaries of Iraqi oil sales in 2001 under the United Nations Oil-for-Food Program. The committee, headed by Volcker, was appointed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in April 2004 to investigate the administration and management of Iraqs Oil-for-Food Programme.

How did things go wrong After Congress insider and envoy Aneil Mathrani blew the lid on Singhs visit to Iraq in 2001, when the oil deals were purportedly struck, the pressure seemed to have shifted on to the Congress and Sonia Gandhi.

All along, he stood to gain by staying close to the Congress, but the party had to distance itself from him, especially after Mathranis claims.

He was appointed as the external affairs minister in the UPA government on May 23, 2004. He joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1953 and served for 31 years. He was also posted to New York with the Permanent Mission of India, and as Indias representative to Executive Board of Unicef. He served on several important UN committees between 1963-66 and in 1966 he was posted to the Prime Ministers secretariat under Indira Gandhi. In 1984 he joined the Congress. He served as secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs during1982 -84. He was 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 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 UN.

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 UN and there are Arab members in it. I must emphasise that this matter will have to be placed before the government at the highest levels, so it would be premature to say aye or nay, he had said after a meeting with US secretary of state Colin Powell.

He has been criticised by the BJP for his contradictory statements on Indias policy on Pakistan.