Sardar Swaran Singh was an Indian politician. He was India's longest-serving union cabinet minister.[citation needed]

Early life

Swaran Singh Purewal was born on 19 August 1907 in Shankar Village in Jalandhar district of Punjab. He was born into an agricultural family.[citation needed]

He completed his intermediate (High school) at Randhir College in Kapurthala. He then joined Government College, Lahore and completed a degree in Physics with honors.[citation needed]

He then worked as a lecturer in Physics in Lyallpur Khalsa College. After leaving this job he studied law in Government law college in Lahore and received his L.L.B in 1932.[citation needed]

He started a law practice near his birth village in the nearby town of Jallandhar, specialising in criminal law.[citation needed]

Political career

The early days

In 1930s he joined the Akali Dal political party and by the mid forties he was a prominent leader in the mid-1940s. He played an important role in the compromise between the Indian national congress party and the Akali Dal in the early 1940s.[citation needed]

Just before the 1946 elections, the Panthic Party was formed with Baldev Singh as the leader and Singh was elected its deputy leader. In 1946 he was elected a member of the Punjab legislative assembly. He then became parliamentary secretary to the Punjab Coalition government.[citation needed]

He was a member of the Punjab Partition Committee where he played an important role.[citation needed]

On 15 August 1947, the day of Indian Independence he was sworn in as Home Minister in the cabinet of the state of Punjab. At the same time the capital of the Punjab was shifted from Shimla to Jallandhar.[citation needed]

On 13 May 1952 he resigned his position here when Jawaharlal Nehru included him in the central cabinet.[1] [2]

In the central government

He entered the cabinet of India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, in 1952, and was that government's last surviving member.

He spent 23 years of his life as a high ranking Cabinet Minister in the Government of India. He had a reputation for being an effective debater and negotiator. "His debates at the UN Security Council on Bangladesh's cause, when East Pakistan liberation war (1971) was in full swing, were impressive," attests Former Indian ambassador to the United Nations, Narendra P Jain, "He proved to be more than just a match for his then Pakistani counterpart Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. During one of the council debates when Bhutto said that Sardar's hands are full of blood in conflict, Swarn Singh got up and showed his clean, spotless hands."[3] He was familiar with and was a proficient speaker of several languages. He assisted Jawaharlal Nehru in his talks with the Chinese leader Chou-En-Lai, on the Indo-China border question in 1960. He was in the Indian delegation during the six rounds of talks with Pakistan in 1962-63.[4]

He remained a part of successive governments until he resigned in November 1975.

He was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1957, 1962, 1967 and 1972.

Cabinet positions

To this date he is the longest-serving union cabinet minister in India.[citation needed] Babu Jajgivan Ram holds the record for maximum duration as cabinet minister i.e. around 30 years[5] but the record for consistent and uninterrupted membership of the cabinet in continuation is held by Mr. Swaran Singh.[citation needed]

Ministry Date
Works, Housing and Supplies 1952–1957
Steel Mines and Fuel 1957–1962
Agriculture 1962
Railways 1962–1963
External Affairs 1964–1966
Defence 1966–1970
External Affairs 1970–1974
Defence 1974–1976

He is best known for his role as India's external affairs minister (equivalent to Secretary of State).[citation needed]

He was also president of the National Congress in 1969, and 1978.[citation needed]

External Affairs Minister

He visited the USSR in July 1966 along with then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

He led the Indian delegation to the UN general assembly in 1971 to explain India's position in the ongoing war with Pakistan.[6][7]

On Dec. 12, 1971, while the war went on, Mr. Singh addressed the United Nations Security Council for an hour and a half. An imposing turbaned figure, he said, over and over, that the root cause of the conflict was the "brutal repression" of the populace in East Pakistan by the Pakistani military Government and the forced flight of East Pakistani refugees to India.[8]

George H. W. Bush, who at the time was the US Ambassador to the UN and led the US delegation at the UN security council demanded an unconditional cease fire by India to which Swaran Singh responded, "this one sided and partisan attitude of the distinguished representative of the United States has shocked and surprised us. The US is entitled to its own opinions and interpretations, so are we. But facts are facts and must be stated. Right from the beginning of this unfortunate situation that has arisen in the subcontinent, India had been asking for a political settlement acceptable to elected and acknowledged representatives of the people of Bangladesh."[9]

On December 16, 1971, the secessionist leaders of newly born Bangladesh (previously East Pakistan) took over when the West Pakistan troops there surrendered to joint forces of Bangladesh and India, who had seized the capital city of Dacca (now Dhaka). At the United Nations, Mr. Singh called on the world to recognize 'the reality of Bangladesh.'[10]

Swaran Singh Committee

Mohammad Amir Khatamiو his wife and Asadollah Alam, Indira Gandhi and Sardar Swaran Singh during his trip to Iran

[citation needed]

Sardar Swaran Singh was chairperson of the committee entrusted with the responsibility of studying the Constitution of India in 1976 during the national emergency.[citation needed] Soon after the declaration of the national emergency, Indira Gandhi constituted a committee under the Chairmanship of Sardar Swaran Singh to study the question of amending the constitution in the light of past experiences. Based on its recommendations, the government incorporated several changes to the Constitution including the Preamble, through the Forty-second Amendment of the Constitution of India (passed in 1976 and came into effect on 3 January 1977)[citation needed]


He was awarded Padma Vibhushan award - the second highest civil award by the republic of India in 1992.[1]

The Eminent Persons Group on South Africa

Sardar Swaran Singh met with Nelson Mandela in prison three times in the mid 1980s. He was a member of the eminent persons group on South Africa sponsored by the Commonwealth Institute that consisted of Malcolm Fraser who had been Prime Minister of Australia for eight years, General Obasanjo of Nigeria, Lord Barber who had been Edward Heath's Chancellor of the Exchequer and was also chairman of the Standard Chartered Bank, Dame Nita Barrow, Reverend Scott and John Malecela, a Tanzanian former government minister. The group went to South Africa and spent five weeks there to collect information, interact with local people, and met with Nelson Mandela and the ANC; their findings were published by the Commonwealth Institute entitled "Mission to South Africa: the Commonwealth Report".

UNESCO Boards of Directors

Sardar Swaran Singh served as a member of board of directors from 1985 - 1989 for sessions 123 - 132.[11]


External links

Preceded by
Lal Bahadur Shastri
Minister for External Affairs of India
Succeeded by
M C Chagla
Preceded by
Dinesh Singh
Minister for External Affairs of India
Succeeded by
Yashwantrao Chavan