| The wives of the Indian and Canadian Prime Ministers, Gursharan Kaur and Sheila Martin, in Delhi. (PTI)
New Delhi, Jan. 18: What is your view on same-sex marriages'
Manmohan Singh seemed at a loss for words. 'I am sorry, I don't understand your question,' he told the journalist from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation TV at a joint interaction this afternoon with Paul Martin, his Canadian counterpart.
The lady from the Maple Leaf state had got Singh fumbling for words, for the first time since he took over as Prime Minister nearly nine months ago.
While repeating her question, she elaborated. A Sikh religious head has issued an edict against Ottawa's decision to allow marriages between people from the same sex.
Singh again took a minute or so, perhaps to hide his embarrassment. To his credit, he recovered soon.
'It is not proper for me to comment on internal Canadian affairs' I don't think such a thing will have wide acceptance in our country,' the Prime Minister replied.
Martin, who was standing beside Singh, explained. Canada was trying to legalise marriages between people of the same sex. 'This is a decision on the basis of our charter of rights,' he said.
The Canadian premier quickly added that there were 'ethnic and religious' minorities in his country and the charter was also there to protect the rights of the minority against the majority. Same-sex marriages would be civil affairs and not religious ones. Therefore, his government was making no effort to force any religion to sanctify and approve marriages not acceptable to it.
During the day, Singh and Martin held talks on an array of issues of bilateral, regional and international importance. Delhi briefed Martin and his delegation on the steps taken to deal with the tsunami devastation both within the country as well as in the neighbourhood.
The Prime Ministers agreed to set up a tsunami early warning system in the region and hold further talks with other 'like-minded countries' to ensure its early implementation. They also felt the need to expand the proposed system to other areas. 'Canada may not have been hit by the tsunami this time. But we cannot rule out such a possibility in future,' Martin said.
He added that he was 'impressed' by the manner in which India not only dealt with the crisis at its shores, but also in neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka and Indonesia.