The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rahul for Kabul with PM

New Delhi, Aug. 24: Rahul Gandhi will accompany Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his visit to war-torn Afghanistan on August 28-29.

Sources said the trip was part of Rahul’s grooming on governance that started with his debut as an MP last year.

It is, however, difficult to miss the fact that his grandmother Indira Gandhi was the last Indian Prime Minister to visit Afghanistan, a traditional Delhi friend except for the Taliban years, in 1976.

This will be Rahul’s first trip abroad as a member of the official delegation accompanying the Prime Minister.

Earlier, he had visited Pakistan with sister Priyanka on General Pervez Musharraf’s invitation for what was called the revival series in India-Pakistan cricket.

External affairs minister Natwar Singh is the only minister going with Manmohan Singh. It is not clear whose idea it is to take Rahul along ' Manmohan’s or Natwar’s'

Rahul’s grooming has been going on quietly. He is now in Germany to attend a conference on governance. The Congress let out the fact that he had gone on an official trip after criticism that the first-time MP was out of the country on some private purpose when the monsoon session of Parliament was on.

“Rahul is on an official visit. He has been sent to Germany by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to attend an international conference. He is an official representative,” Congress spokesman Anand Sharma said yesterday.

The Afghan trip is special because the two countries are resuming a friendship that had been cruelly snapped by the Taliban regime which was close to Pakistan. Manmohan Singh is a rare world leader who has decided to spend the night in Kabul which most avoid for security fears.

Among other things, the Prime Minister, along with his host President Hamid Karzai, will lay the foundation stone of the Parliament building that is being constructed by India’s Central Public Works Department.

Rahul’s political grooming ground is Amethi from where he won the election and which he visits regularly and, despite frequent speculation about him getting bigger responsibilities, he has neither been made a Congress general secretary nor has any official role been given to him in the Uttar Pradesh party.

In his first speech in Parliament, however, he spoke on the plight of sugarcane farmers in that state.

Given Sonia Gandhi’s understated style of functioning, it is unlikely the son will be pitchforked into some high-profile post until he gains wider acceptance in the party and outside.

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