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External affairs no extra work, says PM

For the present, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh isn?t in a hurry to give up the external affairs portfolio he has held since K. Natwar Singh?s exit.

india Updated: Feb 04, 2006 19:18 IST

For the present, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh isn’t in a hurry to give up the external affairs portfolio he has held since K. Natwar Singh’s exit.

“Ultimately, the PM gets involved in foreign policy in any way,” Manmohan Singh remarked after the swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan. He went on to state that holding concurrent charge of the MEA is “no extra work for me”.

Singh did not rule out another reshuffle but side-stepped queries aimed at eliciting a time-frame. “There is never a finality to Cabinet formation. There is always a possibility (of changes).’’ In the same breath, he defended the lion’s share that went to Maharashtra in the new-look government. “Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra deserve it. So does Tamil Nadu,” he said.

Thereafter, the PM took a flurry of questions on foreign affairs, notably the Iran vote, the Left’s position against India lending weight to a referral to the UN Security Council and the US ambassador’s vice-regal comments linking the nuclear deal with Washington to the Indian stance in the IAEA.

“We will do what is right for the country. We will not act under pressure,” Singh assured. He said that India’s interests were foremost, be it domestic or foreign policy.

When quizzed about Ambassador David C. Mulford’s less-than-diplomatic utterances, Manmohan Singh tended to downplay the controversy with the philosophical quip that “to err is human”.

Appearing relaxed, the Prime Minister, on the Left’s opposition to FDI in retail and other economic questions, observed that “life wouldn’t be worth living without pressures”.

He termed the seemingly fastidious Left as a healthy pressure group: “We will satisfy our Left colleagues that our actions are in national interest… We have to reconcile to the realities of coalition politics.’’

First Published: Feb 04, 2006 19:18 IST