Delhi fort not safe for Bush's address: Officials
Intelligence officials said the historical landmark was not safe for the US Prez to address a huge gathering because of its "openness".india Updated: Feb 14, 2006 11:03 IST
Authorities have rejected on security grounds a proposal for US President George W Bush to address MPs and captains of industry at the 16th century Purana Qila during his visit early next month.
"We have offered the Americans the Vigyan Bhavan and Teen Murti Bhavan in the capital as possible venues for the president's address but they seemed to be keen on Purana Qila, which we refused because of security considerations," a senior Home Ministry official said.
Scouting for a location for the meeting has assumed enormous importance for the security establishment after the Left parties that prop up Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Government announced they would boycott any address by Bush in parliament.
Intelligence officials said this historical landmark was "not safe" for the US president to address a huge gathering because of its "openness".
A decision on the venue for the key meeting will be taken on February 17 when the final touches will be given to Bush's itinerary for his three-day visit after an exhaustive meeting between security and protocol officials of both countries.
An Advance Security Liaison (ALS) team of US officials is currently in Delhi to review arrangements for Bush's visit to India in the first week of March.
Bush is expected to be in India from March 1 on a landmark visit to the region that will also include a foray into Pakistan and a possible stopover in Afghanistan.
Minor changes have already been effected in Bush's itinerary for India after an initial round of talks between the US Secret Service and Indian security officials.
Bush, who was expected to make a whistle-stop visit to the famed Taj Mahal in Agra, may call off that engagement, said officials. He will also not pay a visit to Rajghat, Mahatama Gandhi's memorial that is a customary stop for most visiting foreign dignitaries.
The president is scheduled to visit Hyderabad, where the US intends to announce the opening of a new consulate.
Unlike his predecessor Bill Clinton's five-day trip in 2000, Bush's visit to India will be tightly managed. It is likely to be shorn off bursts of spontaneity witnessed during the visit of Clinton, who danced with village women in Rajasthan and was mobbed by Indian lawmakers.
A home ministry official said: "The security climate has changed drastically in the last five years. After the US intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush is perhaps the most heavily guarded person in the world. Nobody is taking any chances."
Bush's schedule is being kept under wraps given the delicate security issues involved, especially with regard to Pakistan.
He is expected to make only a daylong trip to Pakistan because of the security situation there. In fact most US leaders and officials have not stayed overnight in Pakistan in recent months.
First Published: Feb 14, 2006 11:03 IST