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Vajpayee travels by road to Islamabad

Prime Minister preferred to travel by road instead of covering the 25 km distance from Rawalpindi to Islamabad by chopper.

india Updated: Jan 03, 2004 21:19 IST

Even though arrangements had been made to fly Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee by helicopter from Rawalpindi to Islamabad, the Indian leader preferred to travel the 25 km distance by road.

However, to throw intending attackers off track, three motorcades, each comprising identical black limousines, took off from the Chaklala airbase in
Rawalpindi, where Vajpayee landed Saturday afternoon, even as two Pakistan
Army helicopters hovered overhead along the entire route.

So low did one helicopter fly that it noisily fluttered leaves on trees all
along the route of this very leafy city.

Armed commandos could be seen at the doors of the helicopters keeping a hawk
eye on any suspicious movement below.

Even pedestrians were denied free movement along the routes, residents
complained.

Anti-aircraft guns and troops were positioned in the Margala Hills that form
a picturesque backdrop to this city of 800,000 people, while popular jogging
and hiking tracks along the wooded foothills were declared out of bounds.

Vajpayee was accompanied in his car by Pakistan's Finance Minister and
Minister-in-Waiting, Shaukat Aziz.

Vajpayee has no official engagements on Saturday and will be having internal
meetings with National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra, External Affairs
Minister Yashwant Sinha and Foreign Secretary Shashank at the Serena Hotel
where he is staying.

He is expected to have a private dinner at the hotel.

His first official engagement will be the inaugural session of the SAARC
summit on Sunday morning at the Convention Centre.

Before departing from New Delhi, Vajpayee threw ample hints he was going to
meet individually with his Pakistani hosts.

"While in Islamabad, I will take the opportunity of bilateral meetings with
other SAARC leaders, besides interacting with our hosts," Vajpayee said in a
departure statement.

Observers inferred that while meetings between Vajpayee and Pakistan
President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali would
take place, they may be more in the nature of an informal interaction
without a structured agenda that is usually the norm.

First Published: Jan 03, 2004 19:44 IST