Manmohan-Obama Connect: That special chemistry
Saturday November 06, 2010 07:50:10 PM,
Manish Chand, IANS
New Delhi: Three decades may
divide them, but no two world leaders share that special chemistry
and intellectual delight of being in each other's company as
Barack Obama and Manmohan Singh do. And it is this personal
equation the two sides are banking on for a breakthrough as
negotiations go down to the wire on complex issues between the two
On the face of it, no one will suspect them of having much in
common, one an Afro-American born to a white American mother and
Kenyan father, and another a Sikh Indian born in what is now
But what they share is something deeper: What Obama has called the
audacity to dream, and to entwine the surging hopes of their
countrymen around that dream.
Both are intellectuals with impeccable pedigreed education: Obama
is a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School.
Manmohan Singh studied economics at Panjab University before
heading for the Economics Tripos at Cambridge and D.Phil at Oxford
Both had humble origins, and rose to become the leaders of their
Both are introverts, self-fashioners and love ideas, say officials
and aides who have seen them up close.
"They get along wonderfully. Both are cerebral leaders who love
discussing ideas and have enormous respect for each other," a
senior prime ministerial aide told IANS.
The 78-year-old Manmohan Singh and 49-year-old Obama, an admirer
of Mahatma Gandhi, got along famously since they met first at the
G20 summit in London in April last year.
"He's somebody who has had a close intellectual connection with
the president on a range of issues surrounding economic growth and
development," said Ben Rhodes, Obama's speech writer and US Deputy
National Security Advisor for Strategic Communication.
And they both have not shied away from their open admiration for
each other, prompting some critics to call them a "mutual
Manmohan Singh has called him an "icon" and "an inspiration for
millions of Indians" many a time since he was elected the first
African-American president of the US in November 2008. At the G20
summit in Montreal in June, Obama said: "Whenever the Indian Prime
Minister speaks, the whole world listens to him."
In barely 20 months, the two leaders have met four times on the
sidelines of multilateral summits and once for full-scale
bilateral talks when Obama hosted the first state dinner of his
presidency for Manmohan Singh in Washington Nov 24 last year.
One year later, Manmohan Singh will be hosting Obama and his wife
Michelle for a private dinner at his residence Sunday night before
they sit down for wide-ranging talks the next day.
Officials of the two sides are banking on this personal rapport
between the two for a breakthrough on complex issues like
high-tech exports and India's membership of the UN Security
The two leaders will try to resolve some of these differences when
they hold a one-on-one meeting before joining other guests at the
private dinner at the prime ministerial residence at 7, Race
Course Road Sunday, said well informed sources.
They will have another opportunity to break the deadlock over some
issues when they meet for restricted talks for over half an hour
at Hyderabad House Monday. But in the end, what unites them and
makes them click is sure to outweigh differences, if any, as they
propel their nations to forge the 21st century friendship that
Obama described as a "defining and indispensable partnership".
(Manish Chand can be contacted at email@example.com)
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