The decision taken by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Congress party to strip Natwar Singh of his portfolio was hardly surprising since the Foreign Minister’s continuance has become completely untenable after the institution of two inquiries—one a judicial probe to be headed by former Chief Justice Raghunandan Swarup Pathak and the other a fact-finding probe by former diplomat Virendra Dayal—which will now probe into the allegations leveled by the Volcker Committee report on the Oil-For-Food scam.
While the government’s move to reprimand the Foreign Minister is welcome, the Congress Party instead of threatening a legal notice on the Volcker Committee, it would have been more advisable if it had immediately ordered a domestic probe. By jumping the gun too soon, it only underlines the panic caused within the Congress by the damning UN Panel Report. From the point of view of the Government, taking on the UN system at this juncture is an ill considered move that may only lower New Delhi’s prestige in diplomatic circles.
The Volcker Report is itself a document of high international credibility. Some of the other countries have already directed domestic probes into the facts disclosed by the report. Since the UN-sponsored independent committee has named Natwar Singh as a “non-contractual beneficiary” of payoffs by the erstwhile Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, it would be still better off if the Prime Minister drops Natwar from the Cabinet till as such time as his innocence is proven. This would be more advisable rather than to question the accountability of the UN system just to score a narrow political point.
The observations of the Volcker Report on Natwar Singh cannot be said to be without any basis. There are innumerable coincidences with factual proofs to safely assume that something is amiss and the involvement of individuals and business groups close to the Foreign Ministers family and his son Jagat Singh is rather obvious which needs to be explained to the nation.
The only reason that Natwar is still in the Cabinet is because of his own insistence which is completely unacceptable. It would be in the interest of the party to completely wash its hands off him until he is cleared of all charges. If JP Yadav, the Minister of State for water Resources can resign over allegations of abuse of power, why not Natwar? The credibility of the Prime Minister is at stake and it would be better if Natwar himself resigns rather than face the ignominy of being shunted out. He would have to keep the interest of his party and nation in mind. The prestige of the Congress party is at stake not Natwar’s.