Walking with Lions Tales from a Diplomatic Past

Walking with Lions Tales from a Diplomatic Past

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Item Code: NAF861
Author: K. Natwar Singh
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers
Language: English
Edition: 2013
ISBN: 9789350293461
Pages: 223
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 240 gm
About The Book

The story goes, apocryphal perhaps, that one day the Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin, told his foreign minister that the country’s name must be changed to Idi, and he should inform the UN and all other international bodies. A week passed. President Amin then summoned the minister and asked, ‘Did you carry out my orders?’ The shivering Minister replied there was a problem. ‘What problem?’ the president inquired. ‘Your Excellency, there is a country called Cyprus. The people are called Cypriots. If Uganda were to be called Idi, we would be called Idiots’.

There are few leaders that K. Natwar Singh, in a diplomatic career spanning more than three decades, has not known-and fewer still about whom he has no story to tell. In Walking With Lions: Tales from a Diplomatic Past, Singh puts together fifty episodes that entertain, inform and illuminate.

Featured here is Indira Gandhi as a statesman and mentor, alongside other renowned figures such as Fidel Castro, Haile Selassie and Zia-ul-Haq. The author analyses some personalities with disarming candour, among them Moraji Desai and Lord Mountbatten; at other times, his admiration for leaders like C. Rajagopalalchari and Nelson Mandela shines through. In these pages you will also find a rare, fascinating glimpse of godman Chandraswami and his interaction with a surprisingly submissive Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher. Besides there are short tributes to artists, writers, cricketers and film stars, like M.F. Hussain, Nadine Gordimer, Don Bradman and Dev Anand.

Recounted with empathy and humour, this collection of encounters is a warm, unaffected and reassuring reminder that the great too can be as fallible as the rest of us.


About The Author

K. Natwar Singhis a well-known author, diplomat and politician. He has been ambassador to Pakistan, and was attached to the office of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi from 1966 to 1971. He was secretary general of the NAM summit held in Delhi in March 1983. He has been a member of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, and served as Minister of State and Minister for External Affairs.

He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1984. Since 2005 he has been Honorary Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. His books include E.M. Forster: A Tribute, Profiles and Letters, Heart to Heart, My China Diary and The Magnificent Maharaja. He lives in New Delhi.


A Prefatory Note

During my long life I have met and got to know a large number of people of character, caliber, courage, sensitivity, vision and unquestionable distinction. This has been a blessing. The carnival of personalities includes politicians, authors, artists, painters, bureaucrats and sportsmen from many parts of the globe. Inevitably, they have enriched my life, broadened my vision and refined my sensibilities. Several inspired me in no small measure. I learnt to face adversity with confidence and detachment, if not serenity. Wisdom may have eluded me, but not the joy of living and giving.

These fifty articles appeared in Mail Today in 2011-12. I enjoyed writing them and was pleased by the interest they aroused. No –ism infects them. No preaching disfigures them.

This volume is the brainchild of Aroon Purie, editor-in-chief of the India Today Group. I thank him in all sincerity. To Krishan Chopra, Publisher and Chief Editor, HarperCollins Publishers India, I express my gratitude. For the title I suggested ‘The Pleasures and Perils of Diplomacy’-he avoided commenting on my inanity and came up with a gem. Also thanks to Debasri Rakshit for being a tolerant editor.




  A Prefatory Note xi
1 An Ill-tempered PM 1
2 A Spat with Morarji Desai 6
3 A Progressive Conservative 11
4 Frontier Gandhi: The Forgotten Hero 17
5 A False Alarm 21
6 A Teddy Bear and a Slipped Disc 25
7 An Encounter with Robert Mugabe 30
8 Dr Zakir Hussain's Death and Beyond 35
9 Princes, Privileges and Privy Purses 39
10 The Legacy of Nehru 43
11 Nehru's Sisters 48
12 A Tale of Three Stephanians 53
13 The Gentleman Politician 57
14 Lord Mountbatten's Obsession 60
15 How PV Became PM 63
16 The Born Dissenter 67
17 Fenner, JP and the Emergency 71
18 The Perils of Diplomacy 75
19 A Tale of an IFS Probationer 78
20 President Ronald Reagan Stymied 82
21 Gandhi and the Eiffel Tower 86
22 A White House Invitation That Never Was 90
23 Castro and the New Afghan Government 95
24 Cambodia and Its King 99
25 General Vo Nguyen Giap: A Master Militarist 103
26 Hastings Banda and Diplomatic Protocol 107
27 High-level Municipal Diplomacy 111
28 His Imperial Majesty and His Quadrupeds 115
29 The King of Nepal and I 120
30 The Road to Mandalay 124
31 The Forgotten Cause Celebre 127
32 Instant Diplomacy at Harare 131
33 The Wrong Road 135
34 The Sardar Outwits Bhutto 139
35 High Diplomatic Tantrum 144
36 In and Out of the Stone Age 149
37 Radhakrishnan Surprises Mao 154
38 A Rendezvous with Nelson Mandela 158
39 A Distraught Begum 163
40 In Russia with Sonia Gandhi and President Putin 168
41 Margaret Thatcher, Chandraswami and I 173
42 The Ubiquitous Swami 180
43 A Medium Called Albert Best 184
44 An Encounter with Qi Baishi 188
45 The Dalai Lama Arrives in India 192
46 A Brief Rendezvous with Don Bradman 196
47 Nehru and Gordimer 199
48 Hussain the Genius 204
49 All's Well That Ends Well 208
50 Remembering Dev Anand 212

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