One day to go, President Bush visit still hush-hush
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One day to go, President Bush visit still hush-hush

There is no formal announcement of the visit of the US President to India, reports Nilova Roy Chaudhury.

india Updated: Feb 28, 2006 02:17 IST

The Indian Tricolour and the American Stars and Stripes are aflutter around Vijay Chowk, the Central Vista and freshly painted roundabouts at the heart of India’s capital.

But, less than 48 hours before he is due to land in New Delhi, there is still no formal announcement of the visit of US President George Walker Bush to India.

Such a visit would have to be announced by the White House and the Indian government’s External Affairs Ministry almost simultaneously, and is expected, but not certain, on Tuesday evening.

Everyone knows about it, but no one’s talking. The US President has talked of his visit, the Indian Prime Minister has talked of being ready to welcome India’s “honoured guest”, but its not been announced till date.

Considered by analysts to be among the most significant visits by a head of state, given the bilateral civil nuclear cooperation deal on the table, the secrecy surrounding the visit is “understandable” from the security viewpoint, officials said, but “awkward” from aspects like announcing traffic restrictions and coordination details. In fact, the MEA put out an ‘advisory’ for a “VVIP visit(s)” asking the media for their particulars and photographs for coverage at various unspecified venues.

President Bush’s departure is equally shrouded in official secrecy, with details of his visit to Pakistan, after India, totally under wraps. A brief stopover in Afghanistan is also being considered. Contrast this with 1959, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the first US President to visit India, and also a Republican, came to New Delhi. He was escorted by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in an open motorcade from Palam, driving through Connaught Place en route to Rashtrapati Bhavan, where he stayed.

Almost a million cheering people lined the route, recalled Natwar Singh, then a young officer involved with the visit. Eisenhower addressed Parliament and was accorded a civic reception at Ram Lila grounds, after which Nehru said President "Eisenhower has given us a part of his heart."

Another Republican President, Richard Nixon, visited India for 24 hours in 1969. PM Indira Gandhi received him at the airport and, though it was not a state visit, there was a banquet in his honour at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, visited in 1978 and drove to a village in Haryana, since renamed Carterpuri. He addressed Parliament but did not meet Indira Gandhi, then in the Opposition.

The next US Presidential visit happened 22 years later, in 2000, when Bill Clinton, also a Democrat, came to India. The new millennium saw all the modern trappings of security manifest themselves.

The Maurya Sheraton then, as now, has been completely taken over, but his visit was announced "some days" in advance.

First Published: Feb 28, 2006 01:38 IST