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Natwar Singh interview: Rajiv Gandhi sent troops to Sri Lanka without telling Cabinet:-


Natwar Singh interview: Rajiv Gandhi sent troops to Sri Lanka without telling Cabinet:-

Rajiv Gandhi, during his tenure as prime minister in 1987, gave orders to send Indian troops to Sri Lanka without consulting his Cabinet colleagues or top officials, former external affairs minister Natwar Singh said in an interview to Headlines Today on Thursday.

Karan Thapar with Natwar Singh.

Natwar Singh, in the second part of his interview to Karan Thapar on his tell-all memoirs One Life is Not Enough, said Rajiv Gandhi took the decision while he was in Colombo attending a reception given by then President J.R. Jayawardene, without taking the advice of any of his officials. Also read: Manmohan on Natwar bomb: No PMO files were sent to Sonia

According to Natwar Singh, Jayawardene asked for troops because he feared a coup against him and Rajiv Gandhi instantly agreed.

Natwar Singh said that by the time he and P.V. Narasimha Rao, who was also in Colombo found out, the order to send troops to Sri Lanka had already been issued.

'Food parcels dropped on Jaffna casually'

Natwar Singh also spoke about the casual and cavalier way the decision to forcibly airdrop food parcels on Jaffna in Sri Lanka was taken by the then Rajiv Gandhi government.

He said Rajiv Gandhi and his team had not realised that they needed to inform Jayawardene as well as India's representative at the United Nations.

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Natwar Singh said that they only did so when he pointed out that forcible airdrops amounted to an invasion of Sri Lanka's sovereign air space and as a member of the Security Council, Sri Lanka could create a problem for India unless steps were taken both to inform Jayawardene in advance and alert India's ambassador at the UN to be on his guard.

'Rajiv naively trusted Prabhakaran'

Natwar Singh also claimed that Rajiv Gandhi naively trusted LTTE chief V. Prabhakaran.

Natwar said that after Rajiv Gandhi met Prabhakaran, he asked the PM if he had got anything in writing from Prabhakaran.

"Rajiv got irritated and said 'He has given me his word! Prabhakaran double-crossed everybody including the Prime Minister of India," 

Natwar Singh

'IPKF went to Sri lanka without clear briefings'

On the Indian Peace Keeping Force Mission in Sri Lanka, Natwar Singh said the troops "went in without clear briefings or objectives".

"Neither were the troops told about the geography of the Jaffna peninsula nor about the LTTE hideouts. From the very beginning, the Sri Lankan ethnic issue was mishandled and ended as complete failure," he said.

'Op Brasstacks was cooked up'

Natwar Singh claimed Operation Brasstacks was cooked up by then minister of state for defence Arun Singh and then Army chief Sundarji but Rajiv Gandhi, then the PM, had no knowledge of it.

Natwar Singh said Rajiv Gandhi summoned him and revealed he knew nothing of Operation Brasstacks.

'Rajiv Gandhi made faux pas in China'

Natwar Singh also claimed that during Rajiv Gandhi's successful China visit, he made a terrible faux pas.

The highlight of the visit was the PM's meeting with Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. But Rajiv Gandhi, he said, forgot to take the Indian ambassador to China or the then foreign secretary K.P.S. Menon.

Subsequently, when he realised his mistake, the PM apologised to Menon, said Singh.

Rajiv depended on ignoramuses with inflated egos'

Natwar Singh also said that during the first 18 months of Rajiv Gandhi's prime ministership, when his popularity was at its height, he "depended wholly on a team of ignoramuses with inflated egos ... one claimed to be a socialist whilst one was an inept political wheeler dealer. A third was a meddling nuisance. Collectively, they were an irresponsible group that showed little regard for senior Congress ministers and government rules and regulations. They dented Rajiv Gandhi's prestige and his image".

Natwar Singh revealed the name of two of these three because they were dead but refused to reveal the name of the third because the person was alive. The two people he named were Gopi Arora and Arun Nehru.

'Arun Singh and Arun Nehru wielded much power'

On Arun Singh and Arun Nehru, Natwar Singh said: "They wielded much power, exceeded their authority and used their influence with thoughtless rigour, without care or caution. Both controlled access to the prime minister. Their administrative experience was nil; they were blind to the complexities and intricacies of government."


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