I received with great sadness the news of the passing away of Sri S.K. Singh, Governor of Rajasthan, former Foreign Secretary and a very distinguished member of the Indian Foreign Service. I belong to his batch (1954) of direct recruits to the Indian Foreign and Administrative Services.
Initially, Sri Singh opted to join the Indian Administrative Service and I, the Indian Foreign Service. We were trained together in the IAS / IFS Training School then located in the Metcalfe House, New Delhi. Halfway through the training I felt that I should have joined the IAS to take part in developmental activities and incidentally to indulge in my passion for Epigraphy. I appealed to the Ministry of Home Affairs to transfer me to the IAS. My appeal was rejected on the ground that there was no precedent for such transfer. I then took the unusual step of appealing directly to Sri Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister, to reconsider my request. Following his intervention, I was transferred to the IAS and allotted to the Tamil Nadu cadre. The vacancy in the Foreign Service was filled up by the subsequent selection of Sri. Singh from out of the top ranking IAS Officers under training and who were willing to opt for the IFS. Sri Singh went on to become one of the most successful Foreign Service Officers heading important embassies and missions (including at the U.N.) before occupying the top post of Foreign Secretary.
After retirement he was chosen to be the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh and later Rajasthan. Sri Singh was also a historian and had a very deep understanding of international affairs.
With his passing away, India has lost a very able diplomat. My own career in the IAS and my work in the field of Indian Epigraphy have shown that both Sri Singh and myself made the right choices while still under training in the Metcalfe House.