Special Correspondent

He gives enough indications that he may not be averse to joining SP

LUCKNOW: Stating that he would not bend over backward to appease the Congress leadership, the former External Affairs Minister, K. Natwar Singh, on Tuesday gave enough indications that he was not averse to joining the Samajwadi Party, described as a "secular party" by him.

The former External Affairs Minister shared a common platform with the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Mulayam Singh Yadav, at a symposium on "India's foreign policy and Iraq," organised by the Ram Manohar Lohia Trust of the Samajwadi Party.

Mr. Natwar Singh said that he had only been suspended from the Congress in the wake of the food-for-oil scam, but did not rule out the possibility of his expulsion after sharing political space with the Samajwadi Party.

Mr. Yadav was quick to offer him the membership of the SP whenever he decided to quit the Congress.

Stating that he had a vested interest in not quitting the Congress, the former External Affairs Minister said his term as Rajya Sabha MP (he was elected on a Congress ticket) is due to expire on April 10, 2008 and if he were to quit the Congress he would lose his Rajya Sabha seat.

He said Mr. Yadav had offered him a Lok Sabha seat in 1996, which he would have won, but his loyalty to Sonia Gandhi and the Nehru-Gandhi family prevented him from accepting the offer.

A `Nehruvaadi'

Describing himself as a "Nehruvaadi" (follower of Nehru's ideals), Mr. Natwar Singh lamented that India's foreign policy, formulated and nurtured by Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, had lost direction and a sense of purpose under the UPA regime. He said India's voice was unheard in the comity of nations as an impression had gained ground that the country had aligned with a power bloc (led by the United States). Without naming the Congress president, Mr. Natwar Singh said those who were not born in India could not understand the country's culture or the basic tenets on which India's foreign policy was founded.

He regretted that both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi remained silent on the execution of the former Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein. He said even as the execution was condemned by the likes of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Jyoti Basu, the External Affairs Ministry came up with a routine statement.

Drawing a parallel with the earlier Congress regimes at the Centre, Mr. Natwar Singh said the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the execution of Saddam Hussein would have been condemned by Mr. Nehru, Ms. (Indira Gandhi) and Mr. Gandhi. On his alleged role in the food-for-oil scandal, he said the Volcker report had been changed to save former U.N. Secretary General, Kofi Annan, who "would have lost his job."