NEW DELHI: No meeting has been scheduled between Congress President Sonia Gandhi and US President Barack Obama, triggering speculation of a possible departure from the routine of visiting leaders calling on her even when she held no official position.
Sources said so far no meeting has been fixed between Obama and her. While it is not clear whether the Americans would like to work her into Obama’s schedule at the last minute, MEA’s spokesperson said India would go by protocol.
The remark is significant because Sonia Gandhi now has no formal official position. While earlier, she was head of the ruling coalition (during UPA rule) or leader of the principal opposition, it gave her a de facto power. This is no longer the case with Congress numbers plunging to a historical low, depriving the party of the leader of the opposition status.
However, sources said a meeting between Obama and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh may happen. This would be fitting because of the role Singh played in consolidating bilateral ties. As the last PM to have done business with Obama, he still has an official position.
For six years, Obama had had a very good working relationship with Singh. Both academics, Obama and Singh shared interests and outlook. Obama is also known to have held Singh and his intellectual capabilities in high esteem. But the sharp dip in bilateral relations in the past few years was largely due to what was seen as Manmohan Singh’s inability to govern, resulting in policy paralysis that saw a downturn in India’s economy as well as relations with the US.