A few years go, who could ever imagine that the leader of an impoverished third world nation like India would be accorded a royal princely reception in the capital of the biggest super power of the World and the richest nation in the universe. This reminds me of the words of Guru Nanak that God almighty can bestow the honours befitting a king on a tiny creature like an ant. Under the able stewardship of Dr. Manmohan Singh as the Finance Minister of India between 1991 and 1996 and under his tenure as the Prime Minister of the country from 2004 onwards, this malnourished and impoverished South Asian nation has established itself as a world-class economic power. The thus far unprecedented reception accorded to any Indian leader in the Capital of the United States is an honour bestowed on the immense economic progress that India has achieved over the past decade and a half. Dr. Manmohan Singh is the chief architect of this economic miracle.
Left to himself Dr. Manmohan Singh is a very simple, unassuming and earthy person. He never boasts of his achievements and his statements and utterances can never be categorized as hyperbole. But deep inside, he is a statesman of substance. He is thoroughly honest and professional to the core. It takes time to discover a genius, but slowly and steadily the World has recognized his abilities.
Since Sunday the 22nd of November, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had been in the U.S. Capital Washington D.C. Others come to relish the pomp and show associated with the state visits and to do some sight seeing. But Manmohan Singh is a different man. His visit is like a business trip. The moment his state jet landed in Washington D.C. , he was huddled with India ’s diplomatic contingent in the U.S. Capital to prepare for what to talk and what not to touch.
By Monday morning of November 23, the prime minister was fully prepared for what he has to utter in the U.S. Capital. He met several bigwigs in the financial sector, elite members of the diplomatic corps and the senior members of the press, radio and television. In his tete-e-tete with the elite, he spelled India ’s policies on the ticklish issues of Afghanistan , China ’s expansionist designs and Pakistan ’s role in the cross border and international terrorism. About Afghanistan he wants America to stay the course. He does not intend to pull India out of its commitment to build infrastructure in Afghanistan , including highways, hospitals and schools. He wants America to stay the course and complete the job of bringing Afghanistan into the twenty first century. About China , he expressed his happiness at the tremendous economic progress that China is making, but he resented China ’s extra-territorial ambitions and its hegemonistic designs. He was for the democratic stability and economic betterment of Pakistan , but he objected to the international prolification of terrorism from Pakistan ’s hinterland. All these subjects Dr. Manmohan Singh touched during his interaction with the American and the expatriate Indian elite in the American capital. This was a prelude to what he was to deliberate with the American President during his one to one session in the White House. There was no ambiguity in his thoughts and utterances.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s most significant and eventful day was indeed Tuesday November 24, 2009 . President Barack Obama is a maverick president. He is not a remnant of the McCarthy era of American political thought. He is from the minority community and he intends to accomplish something different while in the White House. He recognizes India ’s enhanced economic status. Instead of honoring the British Queen, the British Prime Minister, the German Chancellor, the Japanese Prime Minister or the French President, he preferred to make a radical departure from the age old protocol by honoring the Indian Prime Minister.
President Barack Obama had planned at nineteen gun salute for the Indian Prime Minister and a fast formal welcome on the lush green lawns of the White House. But nature played spoil sport. A continuing drizzle made the outdoor ceremony impossible. In lieu of that a scaled down version of the original was gone through in the East Room of the historic White House. The two national anthems were played amongst a host of foreign and American diplomats.
The real face to face meeting happened after the formal reception. The two leaders were together for more than two hours. Dr. Manmohan Singh had a lot to tell the relatively greenhorn President of America. China ’s over assertion with respect to India must have figured in the talks. Pakistan ’s dual role on terrorism must have figured in the discussions. Pakistan has to listen to its pay master America and cooperates with it on terrorism, but it treats India with utter disdain. Instead of cooperating with India , Pakistan disclaims every thing that India tells its neighbour. Of course Pakistan ’s belligerent attitude towards India must have figured prominently in the mutual dialogue. Barrack Obama wanted to be a good listener instead of being a giver of sermons. Both knew each other’s language, of course each one had his peculiar accent, which should not be a hinderance.
Manmohan Singh has been an educationist, so he wanted to dwell on the subject of education too. both leaders agreed to exchange elite educational facilities with each other country. It was agreed that vital research shall have to be mutually shared by the two nations. There will be an exchange program of scholars and students between the premier schools of learning and research in each nation.
Both leaders were genuinely worried about the danger of declining yields of staple food crops all over the world. They both realized that India and the United States of America had a big role to play in alleviation of world hunger. They agreed to undertake joint Indo-USA research for evolving higher yielding varieties of seeds and inputs. This vital cooperation is going to help India more, because India ’s seeds are getting old. These aging seeds need more inputs and are proving less and less pest resistant. Moreover India ’s premier agricultural universities are severely cash starved. The Punjab Agricultural University in Ludhiana is so much cash strapped that it can not meet the salary bill of its faculty and it can not disbuse pensions to its retirees. Some injection of American dollars can revitalize this moribund university.
Both leaders had a very happy and cordial inter-action with the press after the meeting. There appeared no discord in their perceptions and antics. Of course there was the least mention of the tragic incidents of 26/11 in Bombay last year. This was done with an aim of not rubbing salt on the wounds of America ’s strategic partner against terrorism. Even an adverse mention of China was avoided. The most important omission was the non completion of the final modalities for the transfer of the American technology for the establishment of new nuclear power plants in India . It was expected that the last hurdle in this transaction will be cleared during this very visit, but it did not happen. Engrossed in a severe recession, America badly needs to sell its nuclear plants to India .
In the evening was a big bash in the White House. Over three hundred guests were invited from the amongst the cream of Hollywood, world-wide diplomatic corps, business and industrial tycoons of both countries and some leading entertainers Most prominent among them were Rattan Tata, the Mittals, Indira Nooyi of Pepsico and India’s leading music director A.R. Rehman. This party lasted several hours. Michelle Obama was the gracious host, who decided upon the menu and other details.
Wednesday November 25 was the prime minister’s last day in Washington D.C. The highlight of this day was the Indian Ambassador’s Reception Party in honour of the visiting prime minister. This grand gala party was hosted in the grand banquet hall of Washington Marriott, located opposite the National Zoo. This usually is an Indian affair. But this time around the guest list swelled well past six hundred invitees. These invitees are chosen from all the fifty states of the union plus the entourage of the prime minister and the other important guests from India and the world. During this reception the prime minister makes a formal speech, which highlights the past and present major achievements of India and our prime minister really did rather admirably, drawing repeated applauses.
This was by far the most impressive welcome in America , accorded to any Indian leader present or past.
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