Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W Bush displayed a personal chemistry rarely seen at summit level meetings, said officials who accompanied the PM to Thursday’s dinner at the White House.
“It was not a formal conversation with an agenda. It was an easy-flowing communication between two leaders who understood each other and trusted each other. I have not seen a communication of this quality at this level,” said Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon.
Singh and Bush thanked and praised each other effusively on Thursday on what may be the PM’s last visit to the White House during the Bush presidency.
“Mr. Prime Minister, once again it’s my honour to welcome you back to the Oval Office. And it will be my honour to share a meal with you tonight,” Bush said. “I thank you for coming to Washington from New York.... I appreciate your friendship and I appreciate your leadership.”
Singh, thanking Bush for his “historic” role in bringing the two nations closer, said: “The people of India deeply love you.”
The two hoped that the nuclear deal would be approved in a manner that satisfies both sides. Bush said they also talked about trade and the environment at the meeting, which lasted over half an hour.
He appreciated Singh's briefing on India's neighbourhood. “It was very informative ... and it helps me formulate policy.” Bush said he would never forget his India visit. “I remember telling my friends what an exciting place India is. There’s a vibrancy and an energy, and there's an entrepreneurial spirit that's very strong.”
On the nuclear deal, Singh said, “At each stage it was your leadership, your personal intervention, which resolved all the difficulties that were affecting the progress of these negotiations.”
“…For 34 years, India has suffered from a nuclear apartheid. We’ve not been able to trade in nuclear material, reactors, raw materials. And when this restrictive regime ends, I think a great deal of credit will go to President Bush. And for this I am very grateful to you, Mr. President.”
In New York, Menon quoted Bush as telling PM that his presence was “calming and serene” in such times of economic crisis.
Pak a small component
Both the leaders reviewed security situation in South Asia. Bush said Singh’s advice would help him draw policy for the region. Asked if meant a larger role for India in Afghanistan, Menon said: “India already has a sizeable presence in the form of 4,000 people working for the peaceful reconstruction of the country. ” Pakistan was mentioned but didn’t constitute a large part of the South Asia scenario, said Menon.
Doha & Bush
The two leaders also discussed the Doha Round of World Trade Organisation talks and ways to take it forward. “The PM said India is a supporter of a rule-based international trading regime. But he explained to President that India will have to protect its subsistence farmers and the President appreciated the position.”