Mani Shankar Aiyar slams Natwar Singh over Rajiv Gandhi, IPKF issue in book

Written by PTI | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 3 2014, 03:48am hrs
Congress MP Mani Shankar Aiyar today slammed former union minister K Natwar Singh over claim in his book that former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi decided to send the Indian Peace Keeping Force to Sri Lanka without taking his cabinet colleagues into confidence.

Giving the allegory of a blind man touching different parts of an elephant's body and thinking that the elephant is just like that, Aiyar said "this is what has happened with Natwar".

He said Natwar was only a Minister of State (MoS) at that time suggesting that he may not be aware of lot things happening in the government's decision-making at the top at that time.

Insisting there is a difference between a decision and a deployment, Aiyar said in an interview to Karan Thapar on Headlines Today's "Nothing But The Truth" that the decision to send Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) was taken by Gandhi after there was a call from the then Sri Lankan President J R Jayewardene who was apprehensive that a coup can happen against him on that particular evening itself.

suggested that in the time between the decision to send the forces and the real time of sending the forces, consultations had taken place.

Aiyar, however, agreed with Natwar's remarks that Operation Brasstacks, the extensive military exercises, were carried out close to Pakistan border by the Indian Army in 1986 and 1987 without the knowledge of Gandhi.

Aiyar accused the then Minister of State for Defence Arun Singh and Chief of Army Staff Gen Krishnaswamy Sundarji of "betrayal" on the issue.

A Gandhi family loyalist, Aiyar, however, did not find any fault with Rajiv Gandhi over this saying that the then Prime Minister, who was also that time holding the portfolio of Defence Ministry, was aware of Operation Brassstacks being done as an internal defence mechanism but became "a victim of betryal" later the way in which it was carried out provoking "totally unnecessary tension".

Dubbing Arun Singh and Gen Krishnaswamy Sundarji as "irresponsible persons", Aiyar said they did this when Rajiv had gone to spend some time in Lakshadweep.

Claiming Rajiv Gandhi immediately took steps to defuse tension with Pakistan when he realized what was going on, Aiyar said that on his advice the then Prime Minister called then Pakistani President General Zia Ul Haque for lunch in Delhi and the problem created by Operaton Brasstacks was quickly sorted out.

Aiyar recounted how Rajiv Gandhi had said to him that India was on the point of going to a war with Pakistan at that time.

Aiyar was also in agreement with Natwar Singh's remarks that Sonia Gandhi had suggested that Shankar Dayal Sharma, the then Vice President, should become the Prime Minister before P V Narasimha Rao was finally annointed to the post.

The Congress leader said Sharma had himself told him about this and this is something known in the party circles.

In the interview, Aiyar also disagreed with Natwar Singh's authoritarian and capricious remarks about Sonia Gandhi saying while the Congress President may be having a "strong control" over the party, she had been democratic and allowed dissenting voices to be aired in the presence of her.

Rejecting as "rubbish" Natwar Singh's remarks that she was intimidating, Aiyar said "...some persons with guilty conscious may feel intimidated".

He, however, did not deny Singh's statement that Rahul Gandhi had prevented his mother from becoming Prime Minister in 2004 fearing that she could also be killed like his father Rajiv Gandhi and grandmother Indira Gandhi.

Aiyar at the same time interjected that it was "only one point", which does not exclude other factors that could have gone into her making a final decision not to accept the PM post.

The Congress MP was also dismissive of Natwars'remarks that files from Manmohan Singh's PMO went to Sonia Gandhi insisting that he does not recall any such file having been sought from the ministries he himself had held in UPA government.