Obituary: Dinesh Singh

Dinesh Singh served as Indian foreign minister in the Sixties and again in the Nineties. In between, he headed several other ministries under five prime ministers before becoming minister without portfolio earlier this year.

Ideologically flexible and fiercely ambitious, the dapper Singh, forever with an eye to the political main chance, switched parties in the Seventies when he was slighted by the Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, for perpetuating rather foolhardy insinuations.

Gandhi laid great stress on foreign policy and as her external affairs minister, "kitchen cabinet" member and political troubleshooter, Singh worked closely with her through the Sixties. But, somewhat indelicately, Singh encouraged hints that his relationship with the widowed Mrs Gandhi was more than just political, a myth which briefly enhanced his status.

But when the rumours finally reached the prime minister's ears in 1971, Singh was dumped overnight and though he continued as an MP, Gandhi never accepted his peace offerings until her Congress (I) party was dislodged by the Janata Dal coalition in the 1977 general elections.

Feeling slighted, Singh joined the Janata Dal which lasted a little over two years. He then managed to ingratiate himself with Gandhi, rejoined the Congress (I) and once again became an MP. But despite hectic lobbying and embarrassing displays of abject loyalty, which Gandhi encouraged, he never won back her trust or a berth in her cabinet.

Nor did Rajiv Gandhi, Indira Gandhi's son and successor, forget Singh's indiscretion and political treachery. But Gandhi fils changed his cabinet every few months, and Singh's seniority and experience led to his being made the commerce minister for a short while.

But the present prime minister, Narasimha Rao, a great believer in the occult, felt that Singh was lucky for him and made him foreign minister in January 1993. And, though he suffered a stroke soon after, and could rarely attend office, Singh was retained in that post till early this year when he became minister without portfolio.

Dinesh Singh was born in 1925, the son of Raja Avadhesh Singh, the talukdar, or landed nobleman, of Kalakankar in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. Though most rajas or rulers, and talukdars of Uttar Pradesh supported the British, Singh's family were staunchly nationalistic and committed to Mahatma Gandhi's freedom struggle.

His grandfather was one of the founder members of the Congress Party which led India's independence struggle and the Mahatma was a frequent house guest at the family house on the banks of the sacred Ganges river. Brijesh Singh, one of Singh's uncles, was a fiery Communist who married the Russian dictator Josef Stalin's daughter Svetlana.

After graduating from Lucknow University in the north, Dinesh Singh was sent by the prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, a close family friend, as private secretary to the Indian ambassador in London and later Paris. In 1944 he married Neelima Kumari, princess of Tehri Garhwal, a small principality in the Himalayas.

On returning home from Paris in 1951, Singh temporarily became private secretary to Nehru and tried joining the diplomatic corps but was offered a position only in category "B" of the Indian Foreign Service. He declined, opted for politics and was elected to parliament for the first time in 1957 from Banda in Uttar Pradesh.

Singh was appointed deputy foreign minister by Nehru in 1962 and four years later Indira Gandhi promoted him to junior external affairs minister. A year later he attained cabinet status as commerce minister before becoming foreign minister in 1969.

After falling from power, Singh discredited himself by refusing, despite widespread media criticism, to move out of the palatial bungalow in Lutyens's New Delhi which had been allotted to him after he became a minister in the Sixties. He successfully lobbied succeeding housing ministers to permit him to stay.

A natty dresser, Singh was a distant and somewhat reserved person who wrote two books, Towards New Horizons (1971, the year he was dismissed by Mrs Gandhi) and India and the Changing Asian Scene (1973).

Kuldip Singh

Dinesh Singh, politician: born Kalakankar, Uttar Pradesh 19 July 1925; member, Lower House of Parliament 1957-77; member, Upper House of Parliament 1977-95; Deputy Minister for External Affairs 1962-66, Minister of State 1966-67, Minister 1969-71, 1993-95; Minister of Commerce 1967-69; Minister of Industrial Development and Internal Trade 1970-71; Minister without portfolio 1995; married 1944 Neelima Kumari (six daughters); died New Delhi 30 November 1995.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Geography Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

E150/2014 - English Language Checker (Grade B3)

On Application: Council of Europe: The European Court of Human Rights’s judgme...

Marketing Executive

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Charter Selection: A professional services company ...

Project Manager - Bristol South West

£400 - £450 per day: Orgtel: Project Manager (PM), Key Banking Client, Retail ...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice