the-south-asian Life & Times          January - March 2010




 Editor's Note


 Cover Feature
PM's State-Visit to DC

 Sikhs - the proud face of India

 Manmohan Singh
 Marshal Arjan Singh
 Isher & Montek Ahluwalia
 Gen, JJ Singh 
 Dr. NS Kapany
 Khushwant Singh

Singh Twins
Maharaja Exhibition

From the Past

 Lahore of Yore


 Gul Panag

 Business & Industry

 India's Air Traffic Controllers

Living Heritage
ikh Regiment

Copenhagen Climate Summit

Climate Change Issues

50 years of climate change in Himalaya

 Face to Face
 My life as a diplomat - SJS Chhatwal


 Future Predictions

 Tarot Readings


Bill Moyers on Fundamentalism










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Surbir Jit Singh Chhatwal

- My Life as a Diplomat

SJS Chhatwal’s career as an officer of the Indian Foreign Service began in 1958. It was not always glitz and glamour. The cycle of peace and violence becomes an intractable part of a diplomat’s life. After retirement from the IFS, Chhatwal was appointed Chairman of the Union Public Service Commission – the first IFS officer and the first Sikh to be appointed to the post.

I was born in 1931 in a place called Bannu in the North West Frontier Province, of what is now Pakistan. Bannu, a small garrison-town, where my father was posted in the department of military accounts, was founded in 1848 (for political and military reasons) by Lt. Edwardes, and the small town was therefore known for a while as Edwardesabad. I have no recollection of Bannu – I was a six-month old when my father was transferred to Rawalpindi. My naming ceremony was conducted at Punja Sahib in Hasanabdal, and my earliest memories are that of Rawalpindi where I spent my childhood. We used to live in the cantonment area where I attended a regular primary school and later joined Danny’s High School. It was to be a short stay at Danny’s. Two years into my schooling, my father was transferred – this time to Poona (now Pune), where I was enrolled in the Anglo-Urdu High School, my earlier education having been in an Urdu-medium school. Another two years on, we moved to Lahore, and began life anew in the open suburbs of Model Town. I attended the Model School, one of Lahore’s better known institutions, and passed my matriculation exam in 1947 – fortunately before the partition in August of the same year. My father, who was close to retirement at the time, was transferred to Ferozepur soon after the partition. He retired the following year and the family moved, once again, this time to Agra – to live with my brother who was in the army and was posted in the city of Taj Mahal. It was here that I completed my university education with a Masters in Political Science from the Agra College. Sat for the Civil service competitive exam in 1954 and was selected for the Foreign Service. At the time, candidates selected for the IAS and the IFS used to undergo a 6-month training at Metcalfe House in Old Delhi (now the training institute is in Mussoorie), followed by training in one of the districts in India, after which we were sent for a special course to Cambridge or Oxford. I was sent to Corpus Christi at Cambridge for one academic year, after which I returned to Delhi, and was ready to begin my career in the Indian Foreign Service.

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