Like many Indians from humble beginnings, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh might well describe himself as a son of the soil. But in his case, the soil happens to be Pakistani. The 77-year- old Singh was born in Gah, once part of British India and n0w in Pakistan’s Punjab province.
Two years ago, India’s national media was entranced when a villager from Gah made an appearance in New Delhi to meet his childhood chum “Mohana.”
While the friend had dropped out of school and gone to work in the fields, Singh – also born into poverty – studied by kerosene lamp, eventually winning scholarships to Cambridge and Oxford, where he studied economics. Singh whose family moved to Amritsar, India, after partition in 1947, promised the visiting friend that, one day, a new road and school in Gah would be named after Singh. That is unlikely development, however, considering India and Pakistan’s strained relations.
The two have gone to war three times since they were carved out of British India. Senior Indian journalists say Singh has long showed a soft spot for Pakistan. He is calling for a “treaty of peace, security, and friendship” with the neighbouring country, a prospect some in both nations would resist.
There’s talk that the plain-speaking-some say uninspiring – Singh is too old to foster such change. He’s had five heart bypass surgeries, after all, including all 11-hour operation last year.
But Singh is not one to be underestimated. As finance minister, he created a legacy by shepherding India’s exist from Soviet-style socialism.
And in 2008 he won a long-coveted and controversial civilian nuclear deal with the U.S., despite opposition within his own coalition government.
If any one can make thing better between the two countries, it’s the leader with roots on both sides of the border.
– Rich Westhead
Courtesy:- Toronto Star, Sunday, June 20, 2010, page- A3