Manmohan turns 76, poised to take home n-deal gift

September 26th, 2008 - 11:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew York, Sep 26 (IANS) With the nuclear deal well within sight and the NSG passport in his bag, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh turned 76 Friday as he readied to address a galaxy of world leaders at the UN General Assembly on a rainy day in New York. It could probably be his finest birthday yet as the man who opened up India’s economy nearly two decades ago and set his country on the path to becoming a global economic power is close to realizing another wish: the nuclear liberation of India.

Being a shy man not given to overt displays of feeling, he is not the kind who does birthday cakes and the usual frills that go with such milestones.

According to his aides here, the prime minister spent some quiet moments with his wife Gursharan Kaur and his youngest daughter Amrit Singh at Hotel New York Palace and spent some time fine-tuning his address to the UNGA where he will speak at 4 p.m. (1.30 a.m. IST). He cut a small birthday cake surrounded by his family and senior aides.

Manmohan Singh was thrilled at seeing his youngest daughter, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who has carved a reputation as a civil rights activist.

Unlike Manmohan Singh, who was generous in his praise of US President George Bush at a White House dinner, his daughter is a staunch critic of the administration and has consistently exposed torture at American prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.

True to his reputation as a workaholic, Manmohan Singh’s 76th birthday turned out to be just another working day for the economist-turned prime minister. Manmohan Singh met British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and discussed with him a range of bilateral and global issues.

Brown presented him a memento as birthday gift.

He will meet Namibia President Hifikepunye Pohamba before speaking at the UNGA - his last address to the UN body during his current prime ministerial tenure.

Manmohan Singh will also meet important figures of the Indian-American community later in the day.

In a curious twist of fate, his birthday coincided with frantic last-minute politicking by the Bush administration to clinch the landmark nuclear deal. The US House of Representatives is poised to take up an approval resolution Friday that may lead to the Congressional green signal by the end of the day.

If the deal clears Congress, this will be Bush’s birthday gift to Manmohan Singh, an official said in a lighter vein.

Manmohan Singh heads to Marseilles Saturday evening to attend the India-EU summit.

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