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Kerala Kaumudi Online
Saturday, 28 November 2020 2.25 PM IST

Barack Obama: Memoir praises Manmohan Singh

barack-obama

WASHINGTON: Former US president Barack Obama's memoirs have already caused a minor stir in India - his frank, unflattering description of Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the main opposition Congress party incensed the latter's supporters and amused his detractors.

A Promised Land, the first volume of Mr Obama's account of his political career which released on Tuesday, is a vivid and racy read. In it, he spends some 1,400 words writing of his first visit to India in November 2010 when the now-opposition Congress party was in power - and his impressions of then prime minister Manmohan Singh and party president Sonia Gandhi.

On Manmohan Singh

Mr Obama recalls that when he met Manmohan Singh, he had told him that he feared "rising anti-Muslim sentiment had strengthened the influence of Hindu nationalist BJP", the main opposition party at the time.

Mr Singh had resisted calls to retaliate against Pakistan after gunmen attacked the financial capital Mumbai leaving 166 dead. But "this restraint had cost him politically," Mr Obama writes.

"In uncertain times, Mr President, the call of religious and ethnic solidarity can be intoxicating. And it's not so hard for politicians to exploit that, in India, or anywhere else", Mr Singh had told him.

Mr Obama agreed, recalling a conversation he had with the Czech Republic's first president after the Velvet Revolution, Vaclav Havel, during a visit to Prague "and his warning about the rising tide of illiberalism in Europe".

"If globalisation and historic economic crisis were fuelling these trends in relatively wealthy nations - If I was seeing it even in the United States with the Tea Party - how could India be immune?" Mr Obama writes.

During a dinner party hosted by Mr Singh on Mr Obama's first evening in Delhi, Mr Singh "spoke openly about the clouds he saw on the horizon".

Mr Singh mentioned the slowing economy - the 2007 subprime mortgage crisis in the United States had developed into a full-blown global crash by this point.

The Indian Prime Minister, Mr Obama writes, was also concerned about the continuing tensions with nuclear-armed rival and neighbour Pakistan.

"Then there was the problem of Pakistan, and its continuing failure to work with India to investigate the 2008 terrorist attacks on hotels and other sites in Mumbai had significantly increased tensions between the two countries, in part because Lashkar-e-Taiba, the terrorist organisation responsible, was believed to have links to Pakistan's intelligence service."

He describes Mr Singh as the "chief architect of India's economic transformation" and "wise, thoughtful, and scrupulously honest".

Mr Singh was a "self-effacing technocrat who'd won the people's trust not by appealing to their passions but bringing about higher living standards and maintaining a well-earned reputation for not being corrupt," Mr Obama observes.

"While he would be cautious in foreign policy, unwilling to get out too far ahead of an Indian bureaucracy that was historically suspicious of US intentions, our time together confirmed my initial impression of him as a man of uncommon wisdom and decency," Mr Obama writes.

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TAGS: BARACK OBAMA, CONGRESS PARTY, PROMISED LAND, MANMOHAN SINGH, CZECH REPUBLIC, UNITED STATES, SLOWING ECONOMY, LASHKAR-E-TAIBA
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