Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chose to stay away from the media on his return journey from the Asean summit in Phnom Penh, ahead of what is likely to be a stormy Parliament session.
The PM, who was expected to brief the press this evening on the Asean India summit, East Asia Summit and the many bilateral dialogues he has had with world leaders including China and Japan during the past three days, was said to be “not too well”.
The PM had a couple of minutes of a “pull away” meeting with US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the Retreat session on the East Asia Summit, of which global powers like the US, Japan, China, among others are members. East Asia Summit and Asean- India meet were being held along side the main Asean deliberations in this city. The summit concluded today.
Singh and Obama exchanged pleasantries perhaps during a coffee break, a source said. There was no structured meeting between the two leaders, but Obama is learnt to have told Singh, “India is part of the big plan we have.”
Singh, who was meeting Obama for the first time after his re-election, congratulated him. The two had met briefly at last night’s gala dinner hosted for the world leaders too. This was for the first time that an American President was visiting Cambodia, thereby stepping up the engagement of the western world with Asia and more particularly East Asia. India is already focused on a “look east” policy.
The National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon met his American counterpart Tom Donilon for about 90 minutes in the Cambodian capital today on strategic issues, but the government did not elaborate on the details of the meeting.
With the Opposition parties pressing for voting in Parliament on the issue of retail FDI, the PM may have decided not to face questions from the media, The PM, who held bilateral talks with six countries in the past three days, did not interact with the media through the visit. But, commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma, who was part of the official delegation with the PM, was put on the job once again to take questions mid-flight on issues related to Asean or any other .
Putting up a brave front, Sharma said, “let them (Opposition) bring the matter to Parliament….The government is prepared for it.” He added, “we will effectively answer our opponents.” Specifically on UPA ally DMK opposing FDI in multi-brand retail, the minister said, “DMK is a valuable ally. We will convince them and ensure that their concerns are put at rest.” Sharma asked, “will just the colour of the money going to hurt the Indian economy,” referring to allegations that FDI would adversely impact India.