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Foreign hand

india Updated: Sep 30, 2006 00:40 IST

Prime Ministers of India who have also held the portfolio of external affairs

Jawaharlal Nehru: Served as his own foreign minister throughout his 17 years in office — between August 1947 and May 1964. Nehru laid the foundations of Indian foreign policy and steered it firmly towards non-alignment, away from either the US or the Soviet Union, at the height of the Cold War. He championed democracy and was committed to developing close relations with all countries, and was instrumental in providing Indian support for all nations, particularly in Africa and Asia, emerging from colonial rule. Though Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi took active interest in guiding foreign affairs, the PM after Nehru who also held the External Affairs portfolio was PV Narasimha Rao.

Narasimha Rao: Was foreign minister in the Cabinet of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi and held the portfolio when he became Prime Minister in June 1991. Among his major initiatives was his decision in 1992 to bring about an open relation with Israel, which had been kept secret since it was first established under Indira Gandhi’s orders in 1969 and to permit Israel to open an embassy in New Delhi. Also, he launched the government’s ‘Look East’ foreign policy, which brought India closer to ASEAN, and focused on an area of the world that had not been concentrated upon.

IK Gujral: Retained the foreign affairs portfolio when he took over from HD Deve Gowda, assuming office as PM in 1997. His particular area of focus during his 11-month tenure was propounding a ‘turn the other cheek’ policy towards India’s neighbours; now popularly known as the ‘Gujral doctrine.’ While Atal Bihari Vajpayee was very focused on foreign policy, providing direction, he did not keep the External Affairs portfolio.

Manmohan Singh: Became his own foreign minister after K Natwar Singh quit the post in November 2005. He has shown a clear vision of how India should develop its relations with Pakistan (no mandate to change boundaries, but can make borders irrelevant). But it is the Indo-US civil nuclear deal (and the overall improvement in relations with the United States) that will, when done, be the centre-piece of his foreign policy. Widely respected as a brilliant economist, Singh has placed pragmatism and economic diplomacy at the core of foreign relations, while simultaneously developing good relations with all nations. Loves to quote: “No power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come.”