|HOME | NEWS | THE VAJPAYEE VISIT | REPORT|
September 16, 2000
Gore fussed over PM almost like a son
Amberish K Diwanji in Washington
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's visit to the United States is slowly drawing to a close with most of his key engagements behind him. He met United States President Bill Clinton at the dedication of the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial in Washington DC on Saturday morning, and will meet him once more at the dinner hosted by First Lady Hillary Clinton just before he departs for India.
In fact, so tight is the schedule that immediately after the banquet, the prime minister proceeds from the White House to the airport to take the flight to New Delhi, en route Frankfurt, Germany.
Officials accompanying the prime minister are almost heaving a sigh of relief that things went off smoothly. And confidently point to the fact that India-US relations have only gotten better over the past six months, ever since Clinton made his historic visit to India.
If there is perhaps one act that will stay etched in the minds of Indians here for years to come, it is the concern shown by Clinton and Vice-President Al Gore towards Vajpayee. Both of them went out of their way to help Vajpayee mount the podium or walk, offering a helping hand whenever the clearly ailing prime minister had to move.
That such gestures are perhaps of greater symbolism than words in the joint statement can be noted from the incident when the then president George Bush suddenly collapsed while on a visit to Japan. Television cameras across the US caught the then Japanese prime minister cradling Bush in his arms and commentators were quick to point out (perhaps hyperbolically) that that single gesture did more to resolve Japan-US trade disputes than all the words exchanged between them!
Even more than Clinton, it was Gore's body language that now makes him the preferred choice of most Indian Americans as the next president. Gore was most solicitous about the prime minister, helping him along, offering a hand to support Vajpayee, almost fussing over him like a young son. Gestures that were truly touching and made a memorable and lasting impression.
Gore and Vajpayee also held a one-on-one meeting, bereft of officials, to discuss key issues and the future of Indo-US relations. That Gore took time off from his grueling election campaign was not missed by the Indian side and Vajpayee, in his speech, thanked the vice-president, for taking the trouble to fly down to Washington DC to meet him.
Of course, beyond the symbolism is the substance in the agreements and talks. None more so than the two nations agreeing to consult each other on Afghanistan; the talk of India playing a stabilising role in Asia (which Indian officials took tremendous pain to point out was not aimed at any other country such as China); and the need to contain international terrorism, all issues of importance to India.
Even the protests that are almost routine on any Indian prime minister's visit to the US, ever since Rajiv Gandhi came to Washington in the mid eighties and faced a barrage of protests from pro-Khalistanis, seemed weak. The protests were far more vocal in New York, joined as they were with a number of other groups from across the globe. But the protests in Washington by scattered groups of Indian Christians, and some Khalistanis and Kashmiris clearly lacked punch to make an impact.
The Christian groups were most vocal, but steered clear of the Khalistanis and Kashmiris to ardently state that they were not supporting any secessionist organisations but only demanding protection. The Khalistanis and Kashmiris protestors were too small in number (there are only a small number of Kashmiris in Washington, and Sikhs supporting the Khalistan cause have dwindled dramatically) to really be noticed.
rediff.com has assigned Associate Editors Amberish K Diwanji and Savera R Someshwar to cover Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's visit to the United States. Don't forget to log into rediff.com for news of this historic visit as it happens!
ASTROLOGY | NEWSLINKS | BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | GIFT SHOP | HOTEL BOOKINGS
AIR/RAIL | WEDDING | ROMANCE | WEATHER | WOMEN | E-CARDS | EDUCATION
HOMEPAGES | FREE MESSENGER | FREE EMAIL | CONTESTS | FEEDBACK