book by natwar singh

One life Is Not Enough is the autobiography of  Natwar Singh, the former External Affairs Minister in 2004-05. He is known to be very close to Gandhi family and also according to him was humiliated the most by them. The book got a lot of pre-release hype as Rupa Publishers and their team ensured that Natwar Singh’s revelation about about UPA 1 government, relation of Manmohan Singh with his cabinet, Manmohan Singh-Sonia equation in government, his own relation with the Gandhi family in his autobiography gets most attention.

This strategy of Rupa really worked and One Like Is Not Enough managed to sell 50,000 copies on the very first day of release. But much credit should go to Sonia Gandhi. Natwar Singh’s autobiography could have miss the train for mass appeal as elections were over and people are more interested to see what the new government has in store for the country. But Sonia Gandhi’s and Congress vehement criticism, created mass interest in the book. It sold like hot cake. Had Sonia Gandhi choose to remain silent on the content of the book, the picture would have been different.

After reading 548 pages of the book, I started reading for what I bought the book. The chapter on Sonia Gandhi. Before that Natwar Singh wrote about his experience as a IFS officer and as Minister of Foreign department. For me Foreign Department is said to be the best as the officers or ministers concern gets to visit many foreign countries. So did Natwar Singh. He visited many countries and shared his experience.

He discusses his relation with different Prime Minsters of India specially with Jawahar Lal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. He basically concentrated on the foreign policy of various prime ministers. According to him only Rajiv Gandhi was decently successful in his foreign policy while Pandit Nehru and Manmohan Singh failed. His chapter on China was interesting to read as Chinese President Xi Jinping recently visited India

His chapter on Sonia Gandhi starts on a sweet note with Indira Gandhi telling him about Rajiv Gandhi getting married. Natwar Singh portrays Sonia Gandhi as a mild and docile woman who emerges to be strict and authoritative leader with power hunger without any responsibility.  So much so Congressman were afraid to annoy Sonia Gandhi in any way.  Natwar Singh claims to be close to Sonia Gandhi who sought his advice on various issues. But their relationship strained as Natwar Singh supported  Nuclear Policy while Sonia Gandhi was against it.

According to Natwar Singh, he was not even given a chance to clear his name in Oil Food Scam. Sonia Gandhi severed all Gandhi family ties with Natwar Singh to whom he has served so earnestly for 50 years and to three generation of Gandhi-Nehru family.

It appears to me that Natwar Singh wrote his autobiography to achieve two things: first to vent out his anger on Sonia Gandhi for her unruly treatment when his name appeared in The Volcker Report. And second to clear his name as he was wrongly made a scapegoat so that Congress party and Gandhi family alike could proclaim themselves clean. He has given immense details on the entire Iraq Oil Scam issue and every possible document to clarify his stand.

The Verdict:

The book was overall well written with use of heavy words here and there. But the book was pain to read. I was expecting that the chunk part of the book will be about UPA government and role of Sonia Gandhi. But it was not like that. Most of the Sonia Gandhi’s part was revealed before the release of the book as a marketing strategy. So I wont recommend the book if you are only interested in Sonia Gandhi controversy.

But yes if you like to read about foreign policy of India in general then his personal accounts and analysis of foreign policy of India under various Prime Ministers was interesting to read but when they turned into historical account then the narrative suffered.

 Natwar Singh is not the first to come forward to write about his experience with UPA government. Before him, Sanjaya Baru, PC Parakh, Arun Maira has already published their experience and analysis of UPA 1 and 2. All their books came during election times and created mass interest in these political books

Writing memoirs of their tenure in the government is new in India but in West, ministers keep coming up with their accounts. Recent being Hard Choices by Hillary Clinton giving accounts of her four years as the Secretary of States in Obama administration.

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Ritu Mantri

Ritu is an avid book reader. She also reviews books and have reviewed around 200+ books till date. Her target is to finish 1000 books.