Wednesday, December 29, 2004

PVN - India's best Prime Minister so far

This is one idea of mine that has always got me into trouble. Whenever the discussion turns to Indian politics, I used to invariably suggest that PVN was the best prime minister India has had so far. In this I was in a minority - what about the Harshad Mehta / Lakkubhai Pathak / JMM scams, St. Kitts forgery case, his closeness to unscruplous godmen / Babri Masjid Demolition was the standard argument against this. People conveniently forget but for PVN we might be another economically failed state, not the economic miracle in waiting. Just because he didn't go on the charm offensive, lacked charisma, and kept to himself doesn't mean that you can discount on his achievements.

# Economic reforms. Throwing open the Indian economy and jettisoning the remnants of his predecessors's socialist policies.

# The end of terrorism in Punjab without conceding any of the terrorists' demands. There has been no terrorism in Punjab since 1995.

# The successful termination of many hijackings without conceding the terrorists' demands.

# His successful crisis management as home minister after Operation Bluestar in June 1984, during which the army raided the Golden Temple at Amritsar to neutralise a group of terrorists, who had taken possession of it.

# His refusal to concede the demands of the Kashmiri terrorists, who kidnapped Doraiswamy, an Indian Oil executive, and of the Sikh terrorists, who kidnapped Liviu Radu, a Romanian diplomat posted in New Delhi in October 1991, in order to secure the release from detention of some terrorists. Both the Kashmiri and Sikh terrorists were ultimately forced to release the hostages without their demands being conceded.

# His decision in 1992 to bring into the open India's relations with Israel, which had been kept secret since they were first established under Indira Gandhi's orders in 1969 and to permit Israel to open an embassy in New Delhi.

# His orders to the intelligence community in 1992 to start a systematic drive to draw the international community's attention to the Pakistan State-sponsorship of terrorism against India and not to be discouraged by the US efforts to undermine the exercise.

# His crisis management after the Mumbai blasts of March 12, 1993. He personally visited Mumbai after the blasts and after seeing evidence of the Pakistani hand in the blasts, ordered the intelligence community to invite the intelligence agencies of the US, UK and some other West European countries to send their counter-terrorism experts to Mumbai to see things for themselves. He felt that if they felt convinced about the Pakistani role they would at least tell their leaders even if they did not admit it to India.

# His handling, as prime minister, of the occupation of the Hazratbal holy shrine in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists in October 1993, and bringing it to an end without any damage to the shrine and of the kidnapping of some foreign tourists by Al Faran in J&K in 1995. He resisted pressure from various quarters to concede the demands of the terrorists in order to secure the hostages' release.

# His launching of the 'Look East' foreign policy, which brought India closer to ASEAN.

Read the entire article by B. Raman in

I am sure that history would judge PVN as the best PM of India in the 20th century.

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