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When Mohna met schoolmate

Pressing matters of state prevented Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from meeting and catching up with his old school friend Raja Mohammed Ali, 76, for almost a week, reports Nilova Roy Chaudhury.

delhi Updated: May 31, 2008 01:11 IST
Nilova Roy Chaudhury

Pressing matters of state prevented Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from meeting and catching up with his old school friend Raja Mohammed Ali, 76, for almost a week.

Ali, resident of Singh’s ancestral Gah village in Pakistan’s Punjab province, came bearing soil from Singh’s old homestead to meet his old friend ‘Mohna’, now the Prime Minister of India.

According to a senior government official, another factor responsible for the delayed reunion between the childhood friends was the uncertain nature of India-Pakistan relations. There was concern that in the aftermath of the Jaipur serial bomb blasts, it was not "politically correct" for the Indian PM to be seen hugging a Pakistani, the official said.

However, once the two met on Friday, they chatted to each other animatedly for over half an hour and exchanged gifts. The Indian Prime Minister gave Ali a turban, a set of Titan watches and a shawl, while his friend gifted the PM a photograph of Gah village, a shawl, some juttis and soil from his home. He also gifted two embroidered salwar kameez suits for the Prime Minister’s wife, Gursharan Kaur.

Although the PM did not meet Ali for almost a week, he ensured that Ali, accompanied by nephew Mehmud Ali, was made comfortable in a government guesthouse.