But that hasn't kept the good doctor from racking up an impressive record of foreign trips.
Singh has surpassed Vajpayee and many other former prime ministers, earning the tag of "non-resident Prime Minister" with over 70 foreign trips and nearly Rs 650 crore spent on his travel since 2004, when he was sworn in as Prime Minister for the first time.
In his second term, Singh has already made 36 foreign tours and embarked on the 37th on Sunday, leaving on a five-day visit to Russia and China. No fewer than 15 of Singh's 36 UPA II foreign visits were made when Parliament was in session. In fact, the Prime Minister has been out for a few or more days during nine of the 14 Parliament sessions of the last four years.
More trips, including one to the United Arab Emirates, are in the offing before the 2014 elections. The list of Singh's visits shows the highest expenditure of Rs 26.94 crore during his seven-day-long visit to Mexico and Brazil in 2012 to attend the G20 and Rio+20 Summit.
This is followed by Rs 22.7 crore spent on travel to the USA and Brazil in 2010, when he attended the Nuclear Security Summit, BRIC Summit and IBSA Summit.
In contrast, Vajpayee made 35 foreign trips during his tenure as Prime Minister from 1999-2004 at a cost of Rs 185 crore to the state exchequer.
This itinerant attitude has less to do with the taxpayer's money and more with what these visits yield. Singh's foreign visits have produced only limited gains for Indian diplomacy. Take the case of his recent trip to the US. While his meeting with President Barack Obama was merely a formality, his meeting with Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, too, failed to address India's concerns on terrorism.
Back home, his diminishing clout became international news when Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi publicly trashed as "nonsense" an ordinance on convicted lawmakers that had the Singh's approval.
Parliament's sessions - and where the PM visited
What Manmohan missed
In his two tenures, the Prime Minister's preferred destination has been the US, where he has travelled 10 times for bilateral meetings with Obama and for the UN General Assembly and the nuclear security summit.
Russia has been visited nine times in as many years by Singh. Incidentally, Singh has been able to visit only a few countries in the neighbourhood despite India's growing interest and engagement in the region.
The Prime Minister's foreign tours are warranted as India's global engagement has grown over the years. His critics, however, blame him for being away when important decisions are being taken in Parliament and even when the country is facing a domestic crisis.
"The Prime Minister has violated a time-tested tradition by going abroad when Parliament is in session. Nehruji, Indira Gandhi, Vajpayee all respected this tradition and didn't go abroad when Parliament was in session," senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad told Mail Today.
"He has mismanaged the country and wants to run away to foreign countries because he has nothing to say," he added.
Singh continues to defy the convention that the Prime Minister will lead the treasury benches in Parliament. His predecessors often skipped foreign tours to be present in Parliament. For instance, in the aftermath of Gujarat riots, Vajpayee skipped the Commonwealth summit and sent his foreign minister Yashwant Sinha to Australia.
Defending the PM's itinerary, his communication advisor Pankaj Pachauri said: "Trips are planned months in advance and the prime minister does not run away from his domestic responsibility. Certainly you have to be at G-20 and at UN and other important forums and his trips have added to India's diplomatic clout. It is not that the PM has ignored issues back home. The PM attends Parliament regularly."
Asked why the PM is missing on most critical occasions, like the Coalgate debate in Parliament, he said: "If something unforeseen happens, we cannot renege on our international commitments."
PM prepares for Chinese agreements
By Mail Today in New Delhi
A host of agreements will be on the table when PM Manmohan Singh lands in China this week for a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang on Wednesday.
Among the key agreements up for signing is one relating to visas that will codify and hopefully end the visa-related problems, including those faced by businessmen, between the two countries.
Diplomats from the two countries have also finalised a new Border Defence Cooperation Agreement, which will raise the level of coordination from flag-level to that of the armies' headquarters, with regular communication to ensure that incidents along the LAC do not spiral out of control.
On the vexed boundary issue, the PM will flag Indian concerns on aggressive intrusions by PLA but that will largely be for public consumption. Any progress on the dispute is unlikely because China expects territorial concessions in Arunachal Pradesh that New Delhi considers non-negotiable.
Meanwhile, Singh's letter to DMK chief M. Karunanidhi has brought his visit to Colombo for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meet next month under a cloud, even though PMO officials say the issue is still wide open.
The PM said in the letter that he would pay due heed to the concerns of the DMK and Tamils while deciding on his participation.
Sources in South Block say Vice-President Hamid Ansari may represent India at the 54-nation event instead, as the Congress is not ready to anger Tamils with elections scheduled in the summer of 2014.
By Saurabh Shukla
PUBLISHED: 22:12 GMT, 20 October 2013 | UPDATED: 22:12 GMT, 20 October 2013
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-2469332/Non-resident-PM-Manmohan-racks-Rs-640-crore-70-foreign-trips-critics-claim-running-away-Parliament.html#ixzz2iNJGm0As
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