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Bush becomes fifth US President to visit India

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Mar 1: When Air Force One, equipped with a bewildering array of security gizmos, touched down at the high-security Palam Technical Area this evening, Mr George W Bush disembarked to become only the fifth US President to visit India.

Considered the most powerful political leader in the world, a US President always moves with a security cordon that is considered impregnable.

Leaving nothing to chance, security personnel from both India and the US have put in place for Mr Bush a multi-layered security arrangement that encompasses not only the stratosphere but even the gutters, literally.

But the situation was vastly different when President Dwight D.

Eisenhower became the first US President to visit India in 1959.

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru decided to go to Palam Airport to receive the high-profile guest.

Mr Eisenhower was escorted by the Prime Minister in an open motorcade that coursed through Connaught Place en route to Rashtrapati Bhavan, where he stayed. On that occasion, thousands of people had lined the route to welcome him.

A Republican, he addressed Parliament and was accorded a civic reception at the Ramlila ground. An elated Mr Nehru had then remarked: ''President Eisenhower has given us a part of our heart.'' President Richard Nixon, also a Republican, had visited India in 1969. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who did not enjoy a sound equation with Mr Nixon, however, went to the airport to receive him.

It was not an official visit by Mr Nixon, who came to India for barely a day, but a banquet was hosted in his honour at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

President Jimmy Carter, who struck an emotional chord with the India, visted the country in 1978. He even went to a Haryana village, which was famously rechristened as 'Carterpuri'.

Like Mr Eisenhower, Mr Carter, a Democrat, addressed the Indian Parliament. However, no meeting was arranged between him and Mrs Indira Gandhi, who was then in the Opposition. Security was tight but it was not that pervasive.

India waited for 22 years for a next visit from the White House.

In 2000 Mr Bill Clinton, also a Democrat, visited India. But by that time, terrorism had already become a global reality. It was thought prudent to not to take any risk and the vist took place amid tight security arrangements.

No wonder then, security arrangements for Mr Bush, who faces threat from several terrorist groups, have been unprecedented. And the one proof is that the entire 600 rooms of the Maurya Sheraton Hotel, where he will be staying,, have been booked for the President and his entourage alone.

But unlike Mr Eisenhower, Mr Bush will not get an overwhelming welcome. The Leftist and Muslim groups vented their ire against him by staging large protests in several cities across the country.

The CPI(M) has questioned the government's rationale in inviting Mr Bush to visit India, saying that ''his mere presence was an affront on our Parliament.'' It has also decided to stage a demonstration and a sit-in tomorrow morning in front of Gate No1 of the Parliament House.


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