A two-line tweet by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a one paragraph press release by Dr Manmohan Singh is all that we have in the public domain about their May 27 meeting.
Little surprise then that there are theories galore about their one-on-one interaction within hours of them hurling darts at each other.
“Very happy to meet Dr Manmohan Singh ji and welcomed him back to 7RCR. We had a great meeting,” Modi tweeted after having hosted the former premiere at his official residence.
It wasn’t any kind of a high-tea fare for Singh, a diabetic, who gave the PM’s offer of snacks a miss, opting instead for a glass of butter-milk.
Sources broadly in the know of what transpired at the meeting — for which Singh received the invite a day earlier — described the exchange as frank and cordial.
The conversation, as pointed by the ex-PM in the press statement, remained focused on foreign policy and the state of the economy.
He reportedly told party colleagues that he found Modi receptive and in a “good” mood.
Evidently, the PM’s sharp attack on the Congress leadership in an interview to a news agency the same day and Singh’s aggressive speech at an NSUI function had no bearing on the exchange.
Contrary to speculation, neither mentioned the coal case in which Singh had received court summons since stayed by the Supreme Court.
In an interesting reversal of roles, the generally voluble PM was an attentive listener with his predecessor doing most of the talking.
Singh’s take on the economy was a dilation of passages that touched on the issue in his address at the NSUI convention, sources claimed.
Citing commonality of perception with the RBI governor and the PM’s chief economic adviser, he told Modi that he found the economic recovery “fragile” on various parameters: agrarian distress; elusive foreign and domestic investments; below par bank credit; cash-crunch in the power sector; lack of demand for electricity; poor sale of cars, two-wheelers and tractors in urban and rural centres.
Albeit with a few caveats, Modi is stated to have agreed with Singh, who, on the foreign policy front, counselled him to keep channels open with Pakistan even if climate wasn’t conducive for reviving bilateral dialogue.
The US approach to Pakistan vis-à-vis India also reportedly figured in the talks with Singh telling the BJP leader that Washington tended to weigh behind Islamabad when push came to shove.
They also exchanged notes on individual positions President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry could take in a situation they are compelled to make a choice between New Delhi and Islamabad.
The PM’s invite for discussions and Singh’s quick acceptance of it was, by all accounts, a welcome initiative recognising governance as a continuum, no matter who rules India.
Partisan rhetoric apart, the meeting was an exposition of the country’s institutional memory that’s a collective of individual experiences in power.