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From ‘Guru’ to a ‘friend’


New Delhi, Nov. 7: If the message was unusually “long”, few missed the personal touch from the man Barack Obama once called “Mr. Guru”.

Obama’s victory today brought out a side rarely seen of Manmohan Singh after the Indian Prime Minister sent a nearly 300-word congratulatory message that dwelt on their “friendship” and looked ahead to continuing their “rewarding association”.

Singh has seldom been known to bare his mind, especially while dealing with world leaders.

Not this afternoon.

In his message, Singh said the “renewed confidence” Americans “have reposed in you is as much a tribute to your qualities of head and heart as it is an indication of the faith that the American people have in your leadership”.

Sources said Singh’s message was indicative of the respect the two leaders have for each other. Obama had called Singh “Mr. Guru” during the Copenhagen climate talks.

Indian diplomats said the rapport they shared was likely to determine — more than anything else — the course of Delhi’s relations with Washington until at least the elections in India due in 2014.

South Block also believes that the re-elected Democratic President may be better for India than what his vanquished rival Mitt Romney might have been, contrary to conventional wisdom that a Republican administration is more favourable for Delhi.

Singh expressed hope that Obama would continue to work for global peace and progress.

“I have valued our friendship,” he wrote, adding that he looked forward to “continuing our rewarding association” to build on the India-US strategic partnership over the past four years.

The message ended by saying: “My wife joins me in wishing you and Mrs. Obama, as well as Malia and Sasha, good health, success and happiness as you prepare for a new term in office.”

The last time the two leaders met in March at a dinner in Seoul during the Nuclear Security Summit, Obama had given Singh a hug and said “nice to meet you, Prime Minister”.

“Obama not only admires Singh but is deferential towards him in a way that Indians usually are towards a family elder. This is what comes across in Singh’s letter to Obama too where the Indian Prime Minister has expressed a grandfatherly affection for the American President’s daughters,” said a diplomat who has seen from close quarters the two leaders interact.

Former foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh, who also served as envoy to Washington, said Obama’s second term would be “more of the same thing” and the continuity “would definitely be a good thing”.

George W. Bush, he added, had lifted India-US relations to a strategic partnership but Obama has expanded it. “That we have 23 separate high-level inter-governmental dialogues is evidence of the close relationship.”

US envoy to India Nancy Powell spoke in the same vein. “Regardless of the outcome, what I do know is that we can look forward to a continuation of the close relationship...,” she said before the result.