In the midst of a controversy over the Padma Bhushan awarded to him, NRI hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal has said he had worked on behalf of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the US and listed the Indo-US nuclear deal among his achievements.
"Prime Minister Manmohan Singh cannot be called a personal friend, (but) I have worked on his behalf in the US and I have the greatest regard for him," Chatwal told Outlook magazine in an interview.
Asked to spell out his contributions to Indo-US relations, he listed the landmark nuclear deal and then President Bill Clinton's India visit among his achievements.
"Lobbying for the Indo-US nuclear deal was not an easy job. I worked closely with Nancy Pelosi, the current Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Senator Charles Schumer and also some others to make sure it happened," Chatwal said.
On his proximity to the Clintons, he said "making friends with the Clintons was not an easy task either. After 24 years, a US President made his way to India. That was President Clinton, and I came with him from the US. I assure you that I was not just chaperoning the president!"
"Also, no president or secretary of state would befriend me without their own due diligence."
Chatwal said he had never actively tried to seek the Padma Bhushan and was not surprised at the outcry against him.
"In May 2009, I was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honour, won previously by past presidents, senators and congressmen. This award, I assure you, would not have been given to me without due care and investigation," he said.
On his relationship with the Obama administration, Chatwal said "Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senator Charles Schumer and Senator Christopher Dodd, chair of the US-India Senate Caucus, are close friends. I have known them for 20 years."