PM Lee with Hillary and Obama

Either the Star newspaper in Malaysia doesn't follow the news or it's weak in geography.

It reported yesterday:

(Malaysian PM) Najib is among more than 40 world leaders attending the summit but only one of two Asian leaders granted a face-to-face meeting with Obama. The other leader is Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Oops, it goofed.

President Obama also met the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani the previous day.

Didn't the Malaysian newspaper know that or did it forget India and Pakistan are in Asia too?

Maybe it thinks Asia ends somewhere near Johor Baru.

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What we do know is that Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong met the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday.

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And here he is shaking hands with President Obama before the nuclear security summit in Washington.

Both look so imposing. They are so tall they can look each other in the eye. Maybe there was no need for a tete-a-tete.

Barack Obama toasts Manmohan Singh

President Barack Obama toasts Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. This is the first state banquet given by President Obama.

Singh tells Obama: "Mr President, your journey to the White House has captured the imagination of millions and millions of people in India. You are an inspiration to all those who cherish the values of democracy, diversity, and equal opportunity." (Applause.)

"Mr President, I can do no better than to describe your achievements in the words of Abraham Lincoln who said — and I quote — "In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It is the life in your years." (Applause.)

Here's the transcript of the toasts by the two leaders issued by the White House.

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Incredible India: Through a newsman’s eyes

Inspiteofthegods India is an unlikely economic giant. The vast majority of its people don't even have steady jobs, points out Edward Luce in his insightful book on India.

Fewer than 40 million of its 470 million workforce are employed in the "organized sector", which offers job protection and other benefits. The government and the public sector are the biggest employers, employing 25 million people. The big Indian companies we hear about such as Infosys and Reliance Industries employ far fewer people. Less than 1 per cent works in the IT industry and yet India has become a software giant.

 Edward Luce aptly calls his book In Spite Of The Gods: The Strange Rise Of Modern India. India is a deeply religious, largely superstitious country, he says, where most people continue to live in the Edward_lucevillages because there are not enough jobs in the cities. Unlike America or Britain, India has not industrialized on a large scale before setting up high-tech industries.

Luce knows India inside out. He was the Financial Times' South Asia bureau chief based in New Delhi from 2001 to 2006 before becoming the newspaper's Washington bureau chief. And his wife is an Indian.

Luce traces India's lopsided growth to the policies set by India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. He promoted capital-intensive industries and poured as much money into higher education as in primary education. The result: India produces about a million engineering graduates a year but only 65 percent of the population is literate.

India has to change into a more urban, industrial economy, says Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and Luce agrees with him. Yes, they have met, not once but several times.

This is a tight, well-written book which describes the country, its people and politics with interesting details and anecdotes.

Luce recalls an interview with Sonia Gandhi in 2004:

"You know politics does not come easily to me," she said. "I do not enjoy it. I do not even think I am very good at it. Politics killed my mother-in-law and it killed my husband. But when I saw what they were doing to India's secular culture, I felt I could no longer stand by and watch it happen without doing something," she said (referring to the Hindu-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002). "Secularism is the most important legacy of my family. I had to stand up and defend it. I could not watch them tear it." Sonia's eyes were brimming with tears. She was not sobbing. But there was an intense sadness in her face.

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