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A Passage to Washington: India's Prime Minister in DC

[Ed. note: My mistake below -- President Obama's state dinner for India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was scheduled not for Wednesday, but for Tuesday. Apologies for the mix-up, and now you know, I'm not on this year's White House A-list). 

Wednesday, on the eve of Thanksgiving, President Obama will host his first state dinner, and -- throng of Hollywood glitterati notwithstanding -- there will be at least one voice of sanity on the premises: the guest of honor, India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Singh is already making the rounds in Washington, where he spoke Monday at the Council on Foreign Relations. I dropped by, and found myself part of an overflow crowd. Singh is a big enough draw so that the later arrivals had to be funneled to a side room to watch the doings on big flat screen monitors. No matter. The messages came through -- and rather than preening and obfuscating as official Washington is prone to do these days, the 77-year-old Singh greeted the crowd with humility and thanks for coming to hear him. He then spoke with refreshing clarity.

Singh did not talk about "violent extremists." He calls them "terrorists," as in his statement that "Terrorism poses an existential threat to the civilized world, and it must be defeated."

Defeated where? On this, too, Singh was clear: "We should not harbor any illusions that a selective approach to terrorism, tackling it in one place while ignoring it in others, will work."