At the UN, gestures speak louder than words

  • Manas Chakravarty, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Oct 04, 2015 00:28 IST

(PTI, September 29: Leaders’ Summit on Peacekeeping — Mr Sharif waved at Mr Modi, who on seeing Mr Sharif waving at him, smiled back and responded with a wave. After a brief pause, Mr Modi waved again to Mr Sharif, who smiled back and nodded his head. Apart from the wave, there was no other interaction.)

Here goes the rest of the meeting:

The summit started with British Prime Minister Cameron smiling coyly at Obama from across the table and then, realising Obama hadn’t seen him, waving at him frantically. Obama nodded. Chinese President Xi caught Putin’s eye and smiled warmly. Putin gave him the thumbs up and looked at Obama. Obama ignored him and stared at the ceiling. The Israeli prime minister grabbed the opportunity to show the middle finger to the Iranian leader, who gave Obama a pleading look. Obama shrugged his shoulders dismissively. The Saudi prince winked at the Israeli PM. One of the Arab delegates batted her eyelashes at the prince. The Iranian leader stuck out his tongue at the Israeli PM. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon tore out what was left of his hair before rapping the table with his knuckles, signalling a break for tea.

The meeting re-started after tea and snacks, with the Italian delegate belching loudly. The French prime minister gave him a disgusted look. The Italian envoy pulled his own ears in contrition. Nawaz Sharif blew kisses at Xi. The Chinese leader put his thumb to his ear and his little finger to his mouth to indicate he would telephone Sharif. Shinzo Abe looked at Modi, pointed to Xi and Sharif and made a face. Modi laughed. The Vietnamese prime minister made the shape of a gun with his fingers and thumb and pointed it at Xi. Abe giggled. Xi rolled up his sleeves and swung his fist in the Vietnamese leader’s direction. Chancellor Merkel raised her fingers in the peace sign, but nobody paid her any attention. The Greek prime minister stuck his thumbs in his ears and waggled his fingers up and down at Merkel. The Saudi prince stroked his moustache and gazed fondly at the Arab delegate. The Scandinavians scratched their heads. Ban Ki-Moon wrung his hands and bit his nails nervously.

Putin caught the eye of the Ukrainian prime minister and slowly drew his hand, palm down, across his throat. The Ukrainian PM put up his hand and when Obama saw it, pointed to Putin. Obama looked at the Ukrainian PM and made circles with his finger near the side of his head, indicating Putin was a nut. North Korea chortled at all this and rubbed his hands in glee. South Korea blew a raspberry at him.

Uganda whistled while Mongolia kept time by drumming on the table. The Nigerian delegate fanned the air in front of him with one hand while holding his nose with the other. Everybody looked accusingly at the people near him. Congo snored loudly. Venezuela put his thumb to his nose and waggled his fingers at Obama. Ban Ki-Moon threw up his hands in frustration.

Later, the UN secretary-general told reporters the world leaders had a free and frank discussion.

Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint. (

The views expressed are personal

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