Manmohan teases Bush for not visiting Taj Mahal
"I am sorry that the President is not taking you to Taj Mahal this time!" Singh told the First Lady with a mischievous glint in his eyes.india Updated: Mar 02, 2006 16:18 IST
Soon after finalising a momentous civil nuclear pact with the US, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday described US President George W Bush a "true friend" of India, but also hoped he would be more "chivalrous" towards the First Lady Laura when he visits the country next.
"I have always been touched by your warm praise for India and the Indian people. We sincerely acknowledge your deep personal commitment to a closer economic and strategic partnership between our two countries," the prime minister said at a banquet he hosted for the visiting dignitary.
"We see you as a true friend of India," Manmohan Singh said in his remarks at the banquet at the Taj Palace hotel just a stone's throw from the Maurya Sheraton Hotel where the US first couple is staying.
Bush, on his part, appreciated the Indian hospitality and warmth extended to him and his wife once again and lauded the country's human rights endeavour, its multiculturalism and religious tolerance.
Manmohan Singh also had praise for Laura Bush and recalled her hospitality to him and wife Gurcharan Kaur during their visit to Washington last July, as also her abiding interest in education.
"I hope you will return to India and spend time with our students and teachers and discover a new India in the making," he told the US first lady, who had kept herself busy by recording a segment for the Indian version of her favourite show for pre-schoolers "Sesame Street" and a visit to children's home.
"I am truly sorry that the President is not taking you to Taj Mahal this time!" Manmohan Singh said with a mischievous glint in his eyes, evoking laughter among the guests, including Congress Party chief Sonia Gandhi.
"I hope he will be more chivalrous the next time you are here."
The other guests at the luncheon banquet included railway Minister Lalu Prasad, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, former prime minister IK Gujaral, US officials and top chief executives.