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Last Updated: Friday, 3 March 2006, 22:23 GMT
Bush tour diary: Sleeping uneasily
US President George W Bush is on a landmark visit to South Asia, his first-ever trip to the region. He took in Kabul on his way to India on Wednesday, and headed to Pakistan on Friday. BBC state department correspondent Jonathan Beale is travelling with the president and providing this diary.

Friday 3 March 2100 GMT

Well so much for being equal partners. The Indian government's parting gift to the White House Press corps - who'd all written in such generous terms about the host country - was to leave us stranded at the airport.

A Pakistani soldier
Security will be tight for the president - but not the journalists

White House staff accompanying us apologised for the confusion and the delay. They explained they could not get hold of anyone in the Indian government to try to find out why we'd been dropped off at the wrong end of the runway.

I had this vision of Indians quaffing champagne as they laughed at the sons of the old colonialists forever agreeing to supply them with nuclear fuel.

And, of course, while we waited and waited the drama of the president's arrival in Pakistan was unfolding. Most of the press pack had assumed we'd be spending our third night in Delhi - going on to Islamabad in the morning.

But during the trip we were told we'd in fact be sleeping in the Pakistani capital on Friday night. Reporters looked strained as they weighed their own lives against the instinct of breaking news. Self preservation versus leading the bulletin?

You'll be pleased to hear that most showed remarkably human-like qualities. They kept quiet. And when the president mentioned in India the fact that he'd be spending the night in Pakistan there was a sense of outrage that he could have ever been so selfish among these hardened old hacks.

You see, it's ok for him. He's got Black Hawk helicopters and decoy limo convoys to confuse any would be assassin. We mere journalists will be travelling by bus on the main road. We might as well have targets painted on us.

Friday 3 March 1300 GMT

I've hardly seen anything of India - trapped for the most part in the president's security bubble.

A helicopter, part of the US fleet carrying the president, flies over Air Force One in Hyderabad
Security around the president during his tour has been tight

I feel more sorry though for the BBC's excellent White House producer, Adi Raval, who is travelling with me. This is the homeland of his parents. He last visited India when he was three. But he, too, has found it hard to get out.

We feel that we've been cheated as we've only driven through the sanitised parts of the city - no doubt tarted up for the president's visit.

To be fair to President Bush he has managed to get beyond Delhi, the presidential palace and the five star hotel.

Today he visited India's hi-tech capital, Hyderabad - minus most of the press.

He met with young Indian entrepreneurs. He's been quite eloquent throughout his visit but I couldn't help notice one classic Bushism.

The transcript of his chat with them quotes him as saying "I said something really interesting, I thought interesting - otherwise I wouldn't have said it..."

But the president's twisted syntax pales with some of the lines being used by the Indian press: "...the new engagement is expected to power India into the balance-of-power club" or "the hurly burly is done and now for the battles to be won" or "Prez rush hour has students in a spin" to quote just a couple of articles lying on my desk.

I've been left a bit confused by the Indian "nod".

As I walk through the bomb detector at the hotel entrance, I'm not quite sure whether I'm being nodded through or being nodded to stop to be searched.

The Indian nod is neither a yes or a no - more an acknowledgement that you're just there.

This evening, we leave for Islamabad.

Now that will be suffocating security and I hold out little hope of getting beyond the hotel porch.

Thursday 2 March 1900 GMT

The White House has now revealed the full extent of the historic agreement reached with India.

Condoleezza Rice in the gym
Condi Rice has been revealing her workout secrets

In return for American help with its civilian nuclear programme, India will export mangos to the US.

So that is uranium and plutonium for India and exotic fruits for America.

Of course, I am mischievously conflating two separate agreements, but it is not hard to see how the Indians feel they have got the better part of the bargain.

We have had a steady trickle of senior US administration officials selling the deal here in the hotel press centre.

Nicholas Burns, the suave under-secretary of state better known to state department press corps as "slick Nick", oozed enthusiasm at the outcome. Little surprise, as he has done most of the legwork.

Stephen Hadley, the rather grey national security adviser, failed to live up to his promise to provide us with colour of the president and prime minister's talks.

Condi Rice has been more elusive, though we have been watching somewhat odd pictures of her on Indian TV.

She has been filmed working out in the gym on the cycling machine and lifting weights.

All rather impressive, but it does seem to have been a rather strange decision on her part given that it is more day-time TV than a serious face of international diplomacy.

Perhaps, she does want to run for president after all or just show those pesky Iranians that she is not to be messed with.

Thursday 2 March 1100 GMT

This morning, we witnessed the president's welcoming ceremony on the first day of his first visit to India.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (left) and US President George W Bush
Both leaders described the deal as "historic"

According to the President he'd never experienced such a well organised and grand reception.

He clearly had not experienced the chaos that greeted the travelling press.

I suppose with a population of more than a billion people there's every reason to employ so many security guards. But with the added presence of the US Secret Service, it all seemed a bit over the top.

The ceremony itself was certainly a feast for the eyes with lancers on horseback and a gleaming guard of honour.

The centrepiece was the grandeur of the presidential palace.

The surrounding Lutyens architecture here is a constant reminder of imperial Britain.

It's no wonder why some Indians are so wary of any superpower visit. I heard that when Indians hear foreigners talk of investing in their country they're all reminded of the East India Company.

We've now just returned - parched and sunburnt - from President Bush's news conference with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

It was further evidence that India has a large and thriving independent media: Indian journalists outnumbering their western counterparts three to one. The build-up to the news conference was a cacophony of reporters talking over each other.

I've already counted five different 24-hour news channels on my hotel TV - it has to be said, of widely varying quality.

This morning, I enjoyed watching a segment entitled Luvya Dubya - ordinary Indians giving their view of the presidential visit.

Clearly not everyone welcomes his arrival. There have been huge protests. But they have been kept well out of sight.

Wednesday 1 March 1600 GMT

President Bush's "surprise visit" to Afghanistan has managed to surprise most of us. It was the timing rather than the fact that it happened.

Horseback riders escort the president's car
There was a traditional welcome for the president and his wife

The majority of the White House press corps - including me - had already landed with the advance party in Delhi when we were informed that Air Force One was making the detour to Kabul.

I think our absence says more about the dangerous security situation in Kabul, than the president's dislike of the news media. Looking after 100 or so journalists would have clearly stretched even the US military.

While in Kabul, the president said he had enjoyed a taste of Afghan hospitality. He thanked President Karzai for a "fantastic lunch". I hope his stomach agrees.

By all accounts this president is not the best of travellers.

He's become known as the "accidental tourist" - more a reference to the fact that he's shown remarkably little interest in the cultural landmarks of the countries he visits, than to any inability to cope with more exotic diets.

Everyone wants to know who was the last head of state to ignore the Taj Mahal? So close and yet so far.

Instead, President Bush has opted for a series of lunches and dinners with Indian officials.

Here's hoping his stomach copes better than mine. I'm already suffering a bout of Delhi belly.


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