If there is little more than routine coverage of the prime minister's foreign visit, it is because Mr. V.P. Singh is a totally colourless person. Not that I am knocking it, we have had enough exhibitionist prime ministers wasting our foreign exchange.
Mr. Rajiv Gandhi was the best and worst example of this, flying around the world in two Boeings a planeload of ministers, government official, approved journalists. Doordarshan cameramen and Ms. Simi Garewal accompanying him.
But the prime ministers beforehim were also equally flamboyant. Mrs. India Gandhi did a lot of travelling, changing her hairstyles, meeting world leaders, championing the Third World, the non-aligned nations, the Afro-Asian countries. It made us more enemies than friends. Not many appreaciated Mrs. Gandhi, coming from an under-developed country, her own house in disarray, advising and scolding advanced countries which were supplyinf financial and other assistance to India.
Mr. Morarji Desai did not have much chance to travel, like Mr. V.P. Singh he was preoccupied with keeping his government together.
In a way, it was a good think that he did not get to see much of the world, and much of the world did not get to see him. The American media treate him as an exotic curiosity as he expounded, at press congerence after press conference on the virtues of urine therapy. Some things are best practised behind the closed doors of your bath-room.
Mr. Charan Singh did not get a chance to represent his country abroad. Before he could get on a Boeing, he was out. Which is a pity, because, I think, he would have created a good image of India, the kind the West has of us, strong, earthy, full of common sense, honest. His son, unfortunnately, does not have it, in spite of all his American eduction, he look's like one of Devi Lal's farmer ambassadors.
But Mr. Lal Bahadur Shastri was ideal. When he visited London, the British press gave him the title of the winter sparrow. His great quality was that at all times he was himself, and as himself he was an extraordinary nice person. If he had lived for ten years more, which means two terms as prime minister, India's future would have changed. There would have been no Indira Gandhi, no Rajiv Gandhi, no V.P. Singh, no Anil Shastri, there would have been a new breed of men at the top.