Jaswant Singh, the former External Affairs, Defence and Finance Minister in Vajpayee government, passed away on Sunday. He had been in a coma since 2014 after suffering a head injury. One of the BJP’s stalwarts in NDA I, he was in the thick of the action, and a vital cog in that government.
He helped India get out of Washington’s doghouse after the post 1998 Pokhran Blasts and was also celebrated (and in some quarters maligned) for his role in the negotiations of the IC 814 hijack in 1999 which saw a plane with 176 hijacked.
Jaswant Singh was criticised for ‘trusting’ the Taliban while the families of those released would be eternally grateful to him.
While Singh was known for his deep intellect, humility and negotiation skills. In fact, they were considered so legendary that the diplomatic service, an exclusive clique, ‘admitted him as one of their own for his intellect’.
Writing in The Print, Manvendra Singh recalled how a woman would call him every night and scream at him on his home number. The External Affairs Minister used to get a call every day from woman who would ‘scream, cry, abuse, threaten suicide and utter anything that came to her mouth’.
He wrote: “Despite being a cabinet minister, he picked up the phone call in his bedroom, and did not let it be attended by a staff member. The woman was the wife of a crew member on IC-814 that had been hijacked to Kandahar, and she would call to plead for help and intervention. The calls became a ritual. She kept saying, “You are not doing anything to save my husband.” My father would listen quietly. Later when the matter was over, and the aircraft had come back on the 31st, she visited my father with her husband early on 1 January, 2000. She brought flowers, thanked him profusely and even apologised.”
For those who remain unaware, Singh had been the EAM at the time of the attack, and had accompanied three newly released terrorists on a flight to Kandahar. Released from Indian prisons, these individuals were handed over to the hijackers in exchange for the safety of the 176 individuals on board the plane.