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Have you seen Dr Singh smile so much?

Last updated on: November 8, 2010 19:31 IST

Have you seen Dr Singh smile so much?


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh doesn't seem to have stopped smiling since he met Barack Obama at New Delhi's Palam airport on Sunday.

At the airport, the American leader gave the usually touch averse Dr Singh an affectionate hug. Michelle Obama kissed Dr S on his cheeks!

After addressing Monday's press conference with Obama, Dr Singh gave the American a tight hug himself, accompanied by a rarely seen grin.

The last time we believe we saw Dr S beam like this was when he spotted A R Rahman at the State dinner Obama hosted for the prime minister at the White House last November.

Image: A grin and a hug for Barack
Photographs: Jason Reed/Reuters

A hug for Dr Singh

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Emotion and Dr Singh's face rarely encounter each other.

On Monday morning we spotted Gursharan Kaur -- who, we understand, is friendly and talkative -- animatedly point out something to her husband at Rashtrapati Bhavan, minutes before the Obamas arrived.

Not one emotion registered on Dr S's face. It was as if his wife had not spoken.

In Parliament, his impassive demeanour stonewalls the most abrasive discussions.

Be it over the India-US nuclear deal or Opposition anger over the Sharm-el-Sheikh statement or price rise, Dr Singh remains, well, expressionless.

Dr Singh liked President George W Bush a great deal, and the sentiment was amply reciprocated.

But with Obama, his affection is almost paternal.

Is Barack the son he has never had? Is Dr Singh the father Barack never really knew?

Image: The Obamas and the Singhs at Palam airport, November 7
Photographs: Jay Mandal/On Assignment
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Admiration and affection

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Of course, both men are intensely cerebral.

We Indians scoff at Dr Singh for being a silent proxy for Sonia Gandhi, but we do the man injustice.

India's rise that Obama spoke about so often on this visit was largely crafted by Dr Singh and his political mentor, then prime minister P V Narasimha Rao.

Next year, the economic reforms, the end of India's license raj, the birth of liberalisation, which Messrs Rao and Singh conceived and pushed through, will celebrate its 20th anniversary.

As prime minister, Dr Singh has been Arjuna-like, focused on the double digit growth, which, he believes, will one day usher millions of Indians out of a life of poverty.

As one editor, no admirer of Dr Singh, pointed out recently, "He reads, he takes his own decisions... See him as a weak-looking man with an iron will.... Clinton, Blair, Sarkozy, even Putin, didn't work as much as this man."

K Subrahamanyam, the doyen of India's strategic thinkers, described Obama on Monday morning as a leader cast in the mould of the legendary FDR, who led America out of the economic depression of the 1930s, and helped Churchill win the war against Hitler.

Barack Obama is clearly a brilliant mind, even better we dare say than the husband of his secretary of state.

The admiration Obama has for Dr Singh's clarity of vision and economic sagacity has now clearly grown into deep affection that also extends to their wives.

Both at the White House last November and in New Delhi on this visit, Gursharan Kaur and Michelle Obama appear to share very good vibes, as wives of visionary leaders determined to change the lives of their countrymen and mothers of daughters (Mrs Singh has three; Michelle two).

Image: The Singhs and Obamas at Rashtrapati Bhavan, November 8
Photographs: Jason Reed/Reuters
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The last time Dr Singh beamed

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Ironically, the last time Dr Singh was photographed with a grin in the company of another leader was in New York in September 2008.

Paresh Gandhi,'s Chief Photographer in New York, photographed Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, who was clearly in awe of Dr Singh.

Zardari asked Dr S 'Can I hug you?', before giving him a warm hug.

Photographers, who missed the photo-op, wanted Zardari to hug Dr Singh again.

The usually garrulous Mr Z rejected the idea, saying, 'He will be offended.'

Dr Singh didn't say a word. He just kept smiling.

Image: Dr Singh with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari in New York
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/
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