Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had a memorable 76th birthday as a group of eminent Indian-Americans gathered at his hotel to greet him and assured him they will not let him return to India without the trailblazing nuclear initiative in his bag.
With the House of Representatives passionately debating the approval of the India-US nuclear accord in Washington, Manmohan Singh found time to meet some high-flyers among the Indian-American community Friday at the Kennedy Rooms in the New York Palace Hotel where he has been staying since he came here Tuesday.
Leading lights of the Indian-American community, who have proactively lobbied for the nuclear deal over the past four years, shook hands with the prime minister and lavished praise on him for putting India on the global map with his farsighted economic policies and his unwavering belief in seeking nuclear liberation of India.
Sant Singh Chatwal, millionaire hotelier and chairman of the Indian-Americans for Democrats, and Swadesh Chatterjee, a North Carolina-based entrepreneur and chair of the US-India Friendship Council, were among a group of select Indian-Americans present at a small function to fete Manmohan Singh.
Chatterjee was among the few Indian-Americans who briefed and accompanied then president Bill Clinton on his historic trip to India in 2000.
They cut a birthday cake for the prime minister, sang for him, and told him how proud they felt in having a man of his stature as the prime minister of India, an official who was present at the meeting told IANS.
They told Manmohan Singh how India's continuing economic growth, despite recent signs of global slowdown, has raised the country's profile across the political spectrum in the US, the official said.
On an emotional note, the visiting Indian-Americans told the prime minister that they may have left India, but have never for a moment strayed from their roots.
Manmohan Singh praised them individually for their outstanding achievements in a wide swathe of areas ranging from business and software to academia, medicine and research.
The prime minister will address over 400 prominent Indian-Americans at a gala reception at Hotel Waldorf Astoria Saturday evening (2.30 a.m. India time) just before he heads to Marseilles to attend the India-EU summit.
He is expected to make a stirring speech lauding the nearly two million strong Indian-American community for its pivotal role in transforming the India-US relations - a process he has led from the front.
Indian officials are keeping their fingers crossed, but are hoping that the Congress will approve the landmark nuclear deal by the time Manmohan Singh leaves New York later Saturday.