External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee is not planning to let an accident, a broken collar bone and 22 stitches on his scalp deter him from returning to work soon.
Though his office has called off a three-day visit he was scheduled to make to Saudi Arabia from Monday, Mukherjee, aware that his well-being is crucial to the overall image of the government, permitted a photo opportunity on Sunday to show that he was able to sit up on his own and 'cheerful'.
Mukherjee's visit to Riyadh was part of New Delhi's intensified engagement with Saudi Arabia. Bilateral relations between India and Saudi Arabia have acquired a new strategic dimension since the visit of King Abdullah last year, and Mukherjee's visit was meant to be a precursor to a Prime Ministerial visit later in the year. Riyadh's more active role in trying to facilitate a resolution to the West Asian (Palestinian) crisis has caused considerable interest.
Since he assumed the office of EAM six months ago, Mukherjee has quietly but gradually shifted the onus of formulating foreign policy back from the PMO to the Ministry of External Affairs, including managing negotiations on the Indo-US civil nuclear deal. Widely respected for his diplomatic skills, Mukherjee is passionate about translating foreign policy into a vehicle to fuel India's growth story.
The level of anxiety in the government after news of his accident came in late on Saturday is apparent from the Prime Minister personally travelling to the airport to receive him early today, when Mukherjee was flown in to Delhi's Army Hospital.
Regular bulletins are being broadcast about his health, stating details of the treatment given to him and saying, "at present he is quite well and cheerful and all his vital parameters are normal. There is no cause for any concern." While foreign policy, per se, will not be affected, the levels of anxiety within the ministry and government have been palpable since news of his accident filtered in last night.
The 71-year-old workaholic in a message on Sunday thanked those who have greeted him and said, "I am well, but doctors have advised me 48 hours rest. I hope to be back to work after that period."
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri was among the earliest to send a get-well message and flowers to Mukherjee, wishing him good health and speedy recovery. Kasuri, who met Mukherjee last week at the SAARC summit, sent the greetings today through the Pakistan High Commission.