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Bush's security stuns Indians

By Sheela Bhatt and R Prema in New Delhi
February 22, 2006 14:59 IST
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The Indian security establishment is having a harrowing time providing support to the American personnel responsible for United States President George W Bush's security in India.

The Americans make their own arrangements wherever their president travels.

They have a simple dictum: Trust no one.

They transfer tons of equipment, almost-science-fiction technology and highly trained manpower to protect the most powerful man in the world.

Bush's men land in Hyderabad

President Bush arrives on March 1. And yet, as of now, plans of his visit are almost a secret.

Massive security arrangements are being made, keeping in view the threat from Osama bin Laden's terror network.

Even though you would naturally expect the security concerns, the sheer scale, sophistication and budget of it boggles the mind.

Besides Air Force One -- in which the President travels -- more than a dozen aircraft will arrive in New Delhi from the US and different parts of world.

More than 700 personnel -- including American security forces -- are being flown in. Some with Bush, and some even from other countries.

Bush interviews provoke media ire

Three presidential helicopters -– which are equipped with cutting edge landing systems that help them operate in near zero visibility -– have been flown in by cargo carriers in a disassembled state. They are being put together piece by piece.

Indian security officials were stunned to see the packaging and the sophisticated transportation of the helicopters.

The kind of communication equipment being brought to fit into Bush's vehicle would not look out of place in a Star Wars film.

A special window is being set up at Delhi airport to clear American equipment for the Bush visit. Special permissions are being given for the huge quantities of arms and ammunition being flown in by the American 'advance teams.'

Bush has about eight official engagements scheduled in India. And eight special teams have been constituted to protect Bush -– one for each programme.

A closely guarded strategy is being worked out for the landing of the President's aircraft.

A full security drill is likely to take place at the Palam Air Force Base after February 27.

On Monday, February 20, at about 10 am, two senior US embassy security officials visited the Central Hall of the Parliament carrying a sketch of the security arrangements made for Bill Clinton when he addressed a joint session six years ago.

Since the Communist parties have opposed Bush's proposed address to a joint session of Parliament, the Americans didn't spend much time inside Parliament.

So far, there is no confirmation of the American president's speech to Parliament.

Sources said Petroleum Minister Murli Deora has been asked to cajole Communist leaders opposed to the Bush speech.

Also see: Complete coverage: The India-US nuclear tango

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Sheela Bhatt and R Prema in New Delhi