Washington Diary : PM goes Overseas, but Tharoor steals Headlines

by Manish Chand

Washington, April 14 (IANS) Shashi Tharoor has again shown his talent for stealing headlines every time the prime minister travels overseas. This is the second time in a row Tharoor, junior foreign minister and a former UN diplomat, has created a big splash during a foreign trip by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

When the prime minister was in Riyadh in February, Tharoor hogged headlines for his much-misunderstood remarks about Saudi Arabia acting as an interlocutor with Pakistan. This time round, when Manmohan Singh was in Washington to attend the Nuclear Security Summit, Tharoor's relationship with Sunanda Pushkar, a close friend, and disclosures about her stake in Kochi's team for Indian Premier League (IPL) is making headlines. The Tharoor saga and his twitter is being closely followed by the media and officials travelling with the prime minister. What's up with Tharoor? - it has become almost a form of greeting among the Indian contingent.

What is IPL? asks PM

The mild-mannered economist-turned-prime minister, who is certainly no cricket fan, is genuinely flummoxed by the multi-million dollar cricket show called Indian Premier League (IPL). When the controversy brewing around Tharoor's alleged role in procuring IPL team for Kochi hit the headlines, the prime minister asked officials around about IPL. What is IPL, Manmohan Singh asked an aide. An aide tried to explain, but the prime minister looked deeply perplexed. I will find out facts when I go home, was all he would say when asked about the Tharoor controversy at his end-of-the-trip press conference.

Hu faces Falun Gong ire

The multilateral summits are happy hunting grounds for protesters with a thousand causes to peddle. This time round, Manmohan Singh was spared the mandatory sloganeering by Kashmiri protesters and Khalistan activists that greet him every time he is in the US. But Chinese President Hu Jintao had no such luck. Along one route to the Washington Convention Center, the heavily-guarded venue of the 47-nation Nuclear Security Summit that ended Tuesday, one could see scores of followers of the outlawed Falun Gong cult dressed in canary yellow jackets shouting: "Hu Jintao is killer. Stop Genocide." There were also a smattering of Tibetan protesters lining up the route to the convention centre.

A dose of sarcasm

The man known for his professional talk and somewhat stony demeanour has evolved into a media-savvy prime minister. Manmohan Singh surprised the Indian media at a press conference in Washington with his sharp replies. When asked about his two-minute tete-a-tete with Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on the sidelines of the summit, Manmohan Singh could not resist a stab of sarcasm. "I complimented the prime minister on the passage of the constitution amendment bill which makes the prime minister a more powerful personality in Pakistan's political system," quipped a smiling Manmohan Singh.

Obama turns media off

If Prime Minister Manmohan Singh impressed the Indian media with his cool and measured replies, US President Barack Obama, the host of the 47-nation Nuclear Security Summit, alienated a section of the international media with his reportedly brusque remarks. "I'm going to ask that we take a few moments to allow the press to exit before our first session," Obama told reporters for foreign news outlets who were admitted for the first time to the White House press pool to cover the opening session of the summit.

Dining with dictators

More bad press for Obama. The Washington Post took a dig at Obama for hosting a record number of dictators in the American capital. "In the middle of it all was Obama -occupant of an office once informally known as 'leader of the free world' - putting on a clinic for some of the world's greatest dictators in how to circumvent a free press," said the Washington Post in a report.


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Title: Washington Diary : PM goes Overseas, but Tharoor steals Headlines

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