Hu is world's most powerful; Sonia 9th, PM 18th
Chinese President Hu Jintao has been named the most powerful person in the world by Forbes, ahead of US President Barack Obama who is ranked second among 68 people "who matter," a list that also includes Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Gandhi ranks 9th on the Forbes 2010 list of the 'World's Most Powerful People.' Dr Singh comes in at number 18.
Of the 6.8 billion people on the planet, Forbes' list comprises "the 68 who matter."
The heads of state, major religious figures, entrepreneurs and outlaws on the second annual list were chosen "because, in various ways, they bend the world to their will."
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Hu Jintao, 67, occupies the top slot for being the "paramount political leader of more people than anyone else on the planet" and one who "exercises near dictatorial control over 1.3 billion people, one-fifth of world's population."
Forbes said unlike his Western counterparts, Hu, head of the world's largest army in size, can "divert rivers, build cities, jail dissidents and censor Internet without meddling from pesky bureaucrats, courts."
His country, which refuses to "kowtow" to US pressure to change its exchange-rate regime, recently surpassed Japan to become the world's second-largest economy both in absolute and purchasing power terms.
China is also poised to overtake the US as the world's largest economy in 25 years.
"Creditor nation oversees world's largest reserves at 2.65 trillion dollars - 1.5 trillion dollars of which is in US dollar holdings," Forbes said.
His handpicked successor, Xi Jinping, is set to assume the presidency in 2012.
Image: Chinese President Hu Jintao
Obama: No more on the top
Forbes said the second most powerful person in the world is Obama who has slipped in this year's ranking after occupying the top slot last year.
His Democratic Party suffered a mighty blow in the just concluded US midterm elections, with the President decisively losing support of the House of Representatives and barely holding onto the Senate, Forbes said.
"It is quite a come-down for last year's most powerful person, who after enacting widespread reforms in his first two years in office will be hard-pressed to implement his agenda in the next two," the publication added.
The 49-year old first African-American President can however "take comfort" in the fact that he remains commander-in-chief of the world's largest, deadliest military, leader of world's largest -- in spending -- and most dynamic economy and holds the unofficial title of "Leader of the Free World," Forbes said.
Image: US President Barack Obama
Sonia, 9th most powerful person in the world
Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who was not featured in Forbes' recent list of the world's most powerful women, is named the 9th most powerful person in the world.
The 63-year old leader was recently elected to record fourth term as head of India's ruling Congress Party, "cementing status as true heiress to the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty."
Forbes said despite her Italian birth, foreign religion and political reluctance, "Gandhi wields unequalled influence over 1.2 billion Indians."
Crediting her for "handpicking brainy Sikh economist Manmohan Singh as prime minister," Forbes said Gandhi remains the real power behind the nuclear-tipped throne and is grooming 40-year-old son Rahul for prime minister role.
Image: Congress president Sonia Gandhi
Dr Singh, 'best PM since Nehru'
Dr Singh, "universally praised as India's best prime minister since Nehru," ranks 18th on the list.
Forbes said the soft-spoken Oxford-trained economist is "ideally trained to lead the world's fourth-largest economy in terms of purchasing power into next decade."
Credited with transforming India's quasi-socialist economy into the world's second-fastest growing, 78-year old Singh is now enjoying fruits of the free-market policies he implemented as India's finance minister in early 1990s.
"The World Bank forecasts India's GDP will surge 7.6 per cent in 2010, another 8 per cent in 2011; not far behind its 9 per cent forecast for China. Speaking of: Slow and steady will win the race."
Image: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
Putin, the powerhouse
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is ranked 4th in the list.
Putin is still more powerful than his handpicked head-of-state, President Dmitry Medvedev, says Forbes.
Former KGB officer will likely replace protege in 2012. In fact, the Russian government agency reported to have already registered web address Putin-2012.rf.
Russia, a nuclear power with a veto on UN's Security Council, has the final say over one-ninth of Earth's land area, vast energy and mineral resources.
Image: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
Kayani, the 'quiet army chief'
Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the "quiet army chief and now Pakistan's de facto leader," ranks 29th.
Forbes said 58-year old Kayani took lead on flood crisis, "controls Pakistan's powerful intelligence agency and recently demanded President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani dismiss corrupt members of their bloated 60-member cabinet."
His term was extended three years in July.
Image: Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani
Kim Jong-Il: In firm control
On the 31st spot is North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il.
Even though his health appears to be fading, 68-year old Kim remains in firm control of "renegade nuclear power and its 22.7 million impoverished people."
He keeps the world on edge with eccentric antics. His youngest son, Kim Jong Un, is now the Hermit Kingdom's heir apparent.
Image: North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il
Others in the power list
Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al Saud is ranked third, , Pope Benedict XVI (5), German Chancellor Angela Merkel (6), UK Prime Minister David Cameron (7), Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke (8) and spiritual leader the Dalai Lama (39).
Other world leaders making it to the list are newly elected Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on the 16th spot, French President Nicolas Sarkozy (19), US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (20), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (24) and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (41).
Image: Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al Saud
Three criminals too make it to the list
Pointing out that "power can be used for good or for ill," Forbes said three criminals have also made the list this year.
The world's most wanted terrorist Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden is ranked 57.
Despite infrequent communications and persistent rumours of his death, Forbes said 53-year old bin Laden's "symbolic power" remains undiminished.
"Impressionable youths continue to self-detonate in his name; casus belli of two US-led wars costing over one trillion dollars."Joaquin Guzman, the billionaire drug trafficker who heads Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel, comes in at number 60.
Image: Joaquin Guzman, the billionaire drug trafficker
India's most wanted man is ranked 63
India's most wanted man, Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar is ranked 63. Son of a police officer and now boss of Mumbai-based, 5,000-member organised crime syndicate D-Company, Dawood has been declared a global terrorist by the US, while the UN tried to freeze his assets.
"US government says he shares smuggling routes with Al Qaeda and has collaborated with both Al Qaeda and its South Asian affiliate, Lashkar-e-Tayiba, which pulled off the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, possibly with Ibrahim's help," Forbes said.
A prime suspect in 1993 Mumbai blasts that killed 257 people and wounded 713, 54-year old Dawood is rumoured to be hiding out in Pakistan, protected by "appearance-altering plastic surgery and friends in Pakistani intelligence community."
He is also thought to have had a hand in the 2008 terror attacks that killed 174 people in Mumbai.
Image: File photo of Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar