It is not clear if it is foreign policy or a behavioural ailment—this incurable urge of all US presidents to welcome a visiting head of state by placing the right hand of condescension on the visitor’s back. Obama (and a giant beauty called Michelle) performed the same ritual recently on Her Obsolete Highness, the Queen of England. Yasser Arafat, a Nobel Peace Prize-winning one-time user of violence, was very sensitive to this kind of behaviour. In 2000, after Bill Clinton invited him and Israeli PM Ehud Barak to Camp David to solve the Palestine issue, Clinton always ensured he was between the two men during photo ops, with his hands on their spines. The message was unmistakable. But after one such session, Arafat refused to be the first to walk through the door as that would mean he was the weakest in the equation. It’s about body language. A White House official says Musharraf used to puff his chest while meeting a tall white attache. And now that Manmohan is taking austere wife Gursharan Kaur all over the world, one wonders if she should be given a special style budget. After all, she does represent a billion people.
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