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When US sleuths took over Delhi

It may look as if the US security personnel have taken over Delhi. They even demanded control over the ATC, but were refused.

india Updated: Mar 03, 2006 00:47 IST
Archis Mohan and Mayank Tewari
Archis Mohan and Mayank Tewari

"Delta Mike 6 starts from the airport" — crackled the Delhi Police wireless at 8pm on Wednesday. A few minutes later, there was little mention of Delta Mike 6 on police wireless. Instead, it was somebody called "Chancellor" who as per the police wireless reached the ITC Maurya Sheraton Hotel at 8.35pm.

The change in US President's call sign from Delhi Police's 'Delta Mike 6' to 'Chancellor', which is what the US Secret Service call their president, explains how our guests have overwhelmed our security personnel.

Not that anybody had given them a chance. It is after all, earth's most powerful but also its most threatened resident that is visiting the Capital. And the US security was not ready to take any chances and insisted on blocking both carriageways on any road that the US President travels on. Only a single carriageway is blocked when the Indian PM is on the move.

It may look as if the US security personnel have taken over Delhi. But Indian security agencies and the airport officials have had their moments these past two days.

On Wednesday evening, as Air Force One was about to land at the Palam Air Force Base, the US security service wanted the Air Traffic Control to be handed over to them. This was plainly refused.

"We also declined to declare the complete Delhi airspace as a no fly zone. Finally, they agreed. The Americans handed us an encrypted key to give a coded signal to Air Force One for landing and everything went off smoothly," said a senior government official.

Security officials say that while they cannot disclose specifics, there were several demands from their US counterparts that were rejected. "Bill Clinton's visit helped us understand the American security agencies," said a senior officer.

The exposure, although precious, has helped little this time. The present US President's team has a predilection for changing plans.

"One can understand their apprehensions and we respect their attitude. As far as changing plans goes, we are here to assist them," said a senior Delhi Police official.

So help is what the Americans got. So out went the ubiquitous danda, for the Americans wanted constables posted on the 'route' to be armed. "There were also suggestions from the protocol division of the Ministry of External Affairs that pot bellied policemen should not be posted on the 'route'," said the officer.

All in all, it hasn't been an unpleasant experience for the Indian security personnel.

"Our VIP security drills are well established. The US Secret Service respected our over two decade long experience in providing security in the shadow of terror and agreed to several suggestions mooted by us," said a senior officer.

The officers and the rank and file are still busy gawking at the weapons and gadgetry available to the Americans.

"That is first world and third world for you," said an inspector.

First Published: Mar 03, 2006 00:32 IST