We all have our faults and weaknesses. Yet, we do expect our public figures to be flawless and hold them to a standard higher than we may apply to ourselves. Unfair as this may be, it is a reality. That is why former External Affairs Minister and veteran Congressman Natwar Singh’s action in writing letters - on behalf of his son, Jagat Singh, and his associate, Andaleeb Sehgal - to the Iraqi authorities in charge of oil exports cannot be ignored as a simple indiscretion. The facts brought out by Justice RS Pathak make it clear that without the three letters written by Mr Singh, as well as a meeting with the Iraqi Oil Minister in which his son and Mr Sehgal were also present, the Iraqi State Oil Marketing Organisation would not have given the oil contract to Mr Sehgal’s Hamdaan exports. Even while stating this, the Pathak report has accepted that Mr Singh did not derive any financial or personal benefit from the contract.
This should have been sufficient for Mr Singh to have accepted the censure in a more mature and statesman-like manner. Unfortunately, he has chosen another path. He has sought to give ideological colour to the issue by his outbursts pandering to the anti-Americanism of the Left, as well as by allowing a motley collection of politicians like Amar Singh, George Fernandes and Yashwant Sinha to guide his actions. Worse, perhaps, are his fulminations against the government of which he was recently a leading light. His claim that he is seeking action against the Prime Minister’s Office and not the Prime Minister are easily dismissed, considering that the latter is the head of the former.
Sadly, he has inflicted considerable collateral damage on his own persona and his party, for which he will undoubtedly have to face the consequences in coming days. Mr Singh has had a distinguished career as a diplomat and politician, and he may find this galling. But he will be judged on that higher standard, and the reprimand that the Pathak report has issued is the least that it could have done, considering Mr Singh’s imprudence in mixing up his private dealings with his public persona.