This was due to the foresightedness of Sultan Qaboos. No ISIS, no Boko Haram, no influence of the Taliban.

 

One of my closest non-Indian friends was the Highness Fehar-bin-Taimur, uncle of Sultan Qaboos of Oman, who died of cancer on 11 January at the age of 79. He had ruled Oman for 50 years.

Fehar was my class fellow at Mayo College, Ajmer from 1940 to 1944. For a short while he was at the Defence Academy in Dehradun. Books and Fehar were strangers.

His hospitality was legendary. I was his guest in Muscat several times. Once as Minister of State for External Affairs. He was the Defence Minister of Oman. Unfortunately, he did not get along with his nephew, Sultan Qaboos.

I met Sultan Qaboos in 1987 and as Minster of External Affairs in 2004. He dethroned his erratic father in 1970. Being the senior most Arab ruler he enjoyed the respect and courtly friendship of the rulers beyond the Gulf. Had he been alive he would have worked relentlessly to douse the fires that recently blazed in West Asia.

Lakhs of Indians live in Oman, mostly wealthy Gujarati businessmen. Sultan Qaboos’ financial adviser was a Hindu Gujarati. Oman is one of the very few Muslim countries where a Hindu temple exists. The relations between Muslims and Hindus are free of discrimination and strife. This was entirely due to the wisdom and foresightedness of Sultan Qaboos. No ISIS, no Boko Haram, no influence of the Taliban.

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Except for 18 years when I lived abroad as a Foreign Service official, I have lived in Delhi. I do not remember such a severe and prolonged spell of winter. Last week, the night temperature was as low as 2.5 degrees C (lower than Warsaw). The day temperature on several days was below 10 degrees C, colder than many European countries. One feels so helpless when one sees hundreds of destitute and poor people spending nights under flyovers with dimly lighted fires by using twigs collected by barefoot children. That this should be happening in New Delhi, the capital of India and the second richest city in the country is a shame.

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I have not met Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister for over a decade. He has held the portfolio for 16 years. The longest serving Soviet ambassador was Andrei Gromyko, who occupied the post for 27 years. A world record. Joseph Stalin appointed him Foreign Minister when Gromyko was in his mid-30s.

President Vladimir Putin has reshuffled his Cabinet, but it is unlikely that he will shift Lavrov. He was in Delhi earlier in the week, to attend the meeting of an outfit called Raisina Dialogue. He told us a few home truths. He minced no words about the “divisive”, US-led India-Pacific initiative. According to him, the purpose was to limit China’s influence in the region. “We have to be careful with the terminology, which looks benign, but might be something else”. The response of the Ministry of External Affairs was flawed, unconvincing and historically dubious. Lavrov also asserted that a reformed UN Security Council must include India. Russia has always supported India becoming a permanent member of the Security Council with a veto power. China is the main hurdle.

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This year’s Army Day Parade was led by Captain Tanya Shergill, the first woman to do so. Her father, grandfather served in the Army. Her great grandfather fought in the 1941-1918 World War.

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T.N. Chaturvedi, IAS (1950), passed away last week at the age of 93. His service record was quite amazing. He was Chief Secretary, Rajasthan, Auditor General, Home Secretary and Governor of Karnataka. We were friends. Once we had a civilised argument about Manusmiriti. He defended every word of it. I find the book deeply offensive. B.R. Ambedkar publicly burnt the book. We failed to convert each other. This, in no way, marred our friendship.

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