October 30, 2005Public Policy

Natwar Singh must go

Natwar Singh’s guilt in the oil-for-food scandal may not be beyond doubt. His unsuitability is.

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Paul Volcker’s investigation has pointed fingers at India’s Congress party and Foreign Minister Natwar Singh for having benefited from the infamous oil-for-food’ scam — an international corruption racket. While the legal standing of the Volcker report is uncertain, it is quite obvious that Mr Singh and his Congress party have some explaining to do. Natwar Singh’s instinctive defence — typical of politicians fingered by commissions of inquiry headed by retired Supreme Court judges — is laughable.

“This is obviously part of the continuing campaign to malign the Congress party and its senior leaders and functionaries,” (he) said. [The Calcutta Telegraph]

It is far easier to believe that Natwar Singh and the Congress party had dubious relations with the Saddam Hussein regime that to believe that Paul Volcker has an axe to grind against Indian politicians.

Thanks to the wonderous ways in which the international system works, it is possible for UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to remain in office despite his son’s questionable role in the oil-for-food racket. But Natwar Singh cannot escape personal accountability for the questionable role that he and his son are alleged to have played, even if Indian system is no less wonderous.

The Acorn had no questions regarding Natwar Singh’s suitability for the job of foreign minister. He is far too arrogant and dogmatic to hold the job. His long years of experience in the realm of international diplomacy has not quite registered in his on-the-job performance — he put his foot in the mouth too many times. Compared to him, Home Minister Shivraj Patil’s only shortcoming is sheer ineptitude. Neither of the two deserve to remain in Dr Manmohan Singh’s cabinet. But good reasons are not good enough reasons for getting ministers to resign, especially in coalition governments. That requires a nasty cloud of suspicion, the darker and the more odious the better. And the oil-for-food scandal may turn out to be such a cloud. Dr Manmohan Singh will come out smelling of flowers if he were to demand Natwar Singh’s resignation. But there is that little business the Congress party itself, and by association its president Sonia Gandhi, being compromised as well. Now that’s a wild card. But Natwar Singh must still go.

Related Link:S Gurumurthy’s opinion on India and the Volcker report.

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