HT interview: History has many IFS officers in politics, says Taranjit Singh Sandhu | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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HT interview: History has many IFS officers in politics, says Taranjit Singh Sandhu

Mar 22, 2024 07:06 PM IST

Sandhu worked closely with PM Minister Narendra Modi during New Delhi’s negotiations with Washington to seal the $3 billion predator drones deal

New Delhi: Taranjit Singh Sandhu, among the first-timers in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) list of candidates in Punjab, was India’s ambassador to the US until January this year. The 61-year-old foreign service officer retired in February, headed to Amritsar, and joined the BJP earlier this week.

Former Indian Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu joins the BJP in the presence of party general secretaries Vinod Tawde and Tarun Chugh at BJP headquarters in New Delhi on March19. Sandhu was the 28th Ambassador of India to the US. (ANI.)
Former Indian Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu joins the BJP in the presence of party general secretaries Vinod Tawde and Tarun Chugh at BJP headquarters in New Delhi on March19. Sandhu was the 28th Ambassador of India to the US. (ANI.)

Sandhu worked closely with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during New Delhi’s negotiations with Washington to seal the $3 billion predator drones deal and also to finalise the agreement between the two countries to acquire GE engines for the Indian Air Force’s figher jets.

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Sandhu spoke to HT about why he and other diplomats are drawn to politics; Foreign minister S Jaishankar and cabinet minister Hardeep Puri are former diplomats who now serve in Modi’s council of ministers.

When did the idea of entering politics strike you?

I would not really say it’s coming into politics; it’s public service. I think diplomats are also from public service. In the last four years, the relationship with the US has become a partnership in a number of areas like semiconductors. In education and knowledge partnership, IITs are already starting three years in India, and one in the US. So, these are already getting operational; similarly, if you look at the defence sector, we have joint production of things like GE engines. So, I feel that Amritsar which is my home town, should be part of this story.

A couple of your predecessors now have major roles in the government: Hardeep Puri and S Jaishankar. Inspiration?

History has had a lot of foreign service officers coming to politics. I think each one has played a different role. I think somewhere, everybody has contributed something. In particular, I want to contribute to my home city and state and ensure that they also get the advantage of the economic resurgence of the world. If you look at IMF (International Monetary Fund) and World Bank projections, they are quite clear that India will be playing a major role. There’s a huge young population and a lot of opening for the young, in Amritsar and Punjab,

Did you have a chat with the Prime Minister about joining?

Since I’ve worked with him for the last 10 years, I have been inspired. There is no doubt. That’s why I feel that many of these good schemes, positive schemes can be brought to Amritsar, Punjab, and it will help the model route and also integration of the country with Punjab,

But aren’t you being quite brave? You are taking the Lok Sabha route in a tough seat.

See, as I told you, public service is public service, but you do have a point. Since my focus is to help people, I’m taking the Lok Sabha route and actually touching the people. I’m trying to communicate to them what one has been part of, in delivering in Bharat as well as United States. And that’s what I’m trying to deliver in Amritsar, because I have (had) extensive contacts over the years. I know a lot of people because of the opportunity, which I was given as ambassador to the US. And that opportunity definitely was given by the Prime Minister and the external affairs ministers.

But isn’t Amritsar a seat, which the BJP finds challenging?

They say when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Look, wherever there is a challenge, there will be an opportunity. I can tell you that Amritsar requires connectivity and connectivity will lead to increase in incomes of households, not only in agriculture sector but industry, commerce, tourism. You’re aware that a lot of Punjabis are travelling abroad, they need to be conscious that since the investments are coming into India, jobs should also be coming. There are so many possibilities, we can actually give great education, in Amritsar in Punjab, like in rest of India, and then the bulk of people will be trained here. That’s what my vision is.

Will it make a difference for the party or for your political prospects whether the BJP has an alliance with the Akalis?

I think that aspect is being driven by the leadership. Again, my focus is much broader. It is actually to undertake different mechanisms of bringing people together for the development of our country.

Some people seem to feel that retiring bureaucrats who then come into politics, should have a cooling period. What do you think of that?

I do not think so. There is no cooling period for anybody else. This is a public service. This is not your taking an employment. So, therefore, for public service, there’s never a cooling period.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Sunetra Choudhury is the National Political Editor of the Hindustan Times. With over two decades of experience in print and television, she has authored Black Warrant (Roli,2019), Behind Bars: Prison Tales of India’s Most Famous (Roli,2017) and Braking News (Hachette, 2010). Sunetra is the recipient of the Red Ink award in journalism in 2016 and Mary Morgan Hewett award in 2018.

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