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Besieged at home, a different Manmohan abroad

Sunday April 17, 2011 07:56:04 PM, Sarwar Kashani, IANS

New Delhi: Manmohan Singh may be disparaged at home as weak by opposition parties and civil society, but when the prime minister is abroad he is a different man - brimming with confidence and transforms into what Newsweek described as the "leader that other leaders love".

For the past few months the prime minister has been under bitter attack from critics who accuse him of silence over corruption scandals besieging his government.

But when he meets foreign leaders, Manmohan Singh wins praise for his innovative economic ideas as well as his modesty and honesty. When he speaks, they listen with rapt attention to the ideas of the economist considered as the mastermind of the economic reforms that set off India's economic boom.

That was evident at Sanya, in China, where he addressed the plenary of the 3rd BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit on Thursday.

"There was a pin drop silence. They listened to him with rapt attention when he was speaking on the rapid socio-economic transformation of the BRICS nations and those of the developing world," said an official who travelled with the prime minister on his five-day two-nation trip, including Kazakhstan.

The official who wished not to be named said the ideas the prime minister voices at any international fora are closely monitored, and that is why the leaders world over describe him as a "close friend and valued adviser".

Newsweek in its article on the 2010 world ranking of leaders placed Manmohan Singh at the top, and said the prime minister's "unassuming personal style really inspires awe among his fellow global luminaries".

The official told IANS that the reason world leaders look up to Manmohan Singh for ideas is because "he maintains his sincerity and humility" despite presiding over one billion people for so long.

"The Indian economy has done so well, he is a great administrator, and modest, reasonable and tolerant. This all scores for him," he said.

Returning Saturday from what he himself described as a "fruitful" foreign trip, Manmohan Singh while speaking to journalists onboard his special plane was all smiles - quite a rare sight - and countered every questions confidently with one liners.

"Well, I am not disturbed. I have always believed that if winter comes, can spring be far away," the prime minister said, when was asked if he felt disturbed by the criticism at home.

Muted laughter preceded his one liner when he was asked what would be the five things he would like to achieve in the relations with Pakistan -- one of his favoured priorities.

"Well, I think five is too much... if I can succeed in normalising relations between India and Pakistan, as they should prevail between two normal states, I would consider my job well done," he said.

(Sarwar Kashani can be contacted at





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