S K Singh and J N Dixit, the national security adviser who passed away on Monday, were old pals having been colleagues in the Foreign Service. Now the governor of Arunachal Pradesh, Singh was scheduled to meet Dixit to discuss developments on the Indo-China border. But that was not to be.
Talking to rediff.com, Singh recalls his association with Dixit.
I had come to New Delhi on Sunday from Arunachal Pradesh and was looking forward to have a long meeting with Mani Dixit, as J N Dixit was known amongst his friends in the bureaucratic circles.
He called me up four days ago and said he would like me to come to Delhi for some consultations. He asked me to keep two hours free for the meeting.
I told him I could meet him only after my meeting with the President. But that was not to be. Since I am currently holding the charge of the governor of Arunachal Pradesh and have been watching developments on the Indo-China border, he wanted some feedback on that.
I was getting ready for the meeting when the news came in that he had a heart attack and had passed away. I was shocked to hear about his demise.
I have lost a great friend.
Mani was a very old friend of mine. I knew him from the time he joined the ministry of external affairs as undersecretary. I used to live in Rabindra Nagar in New Delhi, very close to his parents' house.
He was a junior to me by a couple of years. He was very proud that he succeded me in most of the postings, including the one of the foreign secretary.
He was the Ambassador to Afghanistan and later became the Indian high commissioner to Pakistan. He also held the post of the official spokesperson of the ministry of external affairs.
He always had his thinking cap on, arguing and discussing problems. I must say to his great credit that even after he became the national security advisor he kept seeking my point of view on many important issues.
A great nationalist, Mani Dixit was much more than a foreign policy adviser for the government. He had the long-term interest of the nation in mind. That is why I rate him highly.
He was the best expert on Indo-Pakistan relationship. He, just like Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, recognised that Pakistan was a difficult country to handle for the simple reason that the polity of that country is decided upon by the military.
The Pakistani military would not allow India and Pakistan to come together. To have a hold over the nation, Pakistani military needs to project India as a very dangerous enemy. And India is a readymade enemy.
They control the employment market in Pakistan. They decide upon jobs in textile mills, sugar mills and management and informatics services.
So that makes the Pakistani army the biggest job-giver in that country. They also control the delivery point for social services, like widows' pension, children's scholarships etc. And they feel that unless they project India as an enemy, they would not be able to maintain their power.
Both Mani and myself did not believe that foreign policy is something that is inherited. He thought that foreign policy has to be long-term in nature and should be in conjunction with national interest.
In his death the country has lost an outstanding diplomat.
(S K Singh spoke to Onkar Singh in New Delhi)