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Last Updated: Friday, 3 March 2006, 16:55 GMT
Bush in India - substance, not style

By Sanjoy Majumder
BBC News, Delhi

President Bush speaking at Delhi's Old Fort
A historic setting for a speech aimed at rewriting history
Six years ago when Bill Clinton visited India - the first visit by a US president in 22 years - he swept Indians off their feet.

The lingering images from his five-day trip were of a bashful Mr Clinton dancing with a group of Rajasthani village women clad in bright saris, his delight at spotting a couple of tigers in the wild and his evident pleasure on his first visit to the country.

In contrast, George W Bush's first visit has been marked by street protests and a tightly choreographed schedule.

It has had all the trappings of a regal state visit but lacked the spontaneity of his predecessor's.

But what Mr Bush has lacked in style, he has more than made up in substance.

Equal partners

On his final day, Mr Bush made a keynote speech from the majestic setting of the medieval Purana Qila (Old Fort).

It was an appropriate setting - a historic venue for a speech that was clearly aimed at rewriting history.

President Bush at the International School of Business in Hyderabad
President Bush spoke of his admiration for Indian enterprise
He spoke about India and America's shared values of freedom and democracy, of equality and opportunity and of unity among diversity.

But most of all, he spoke of forging a new partnership - one that would encompass economic, military and strategic ties.

Over the past few days, India and the US have sealed a significant, albeit controversial, civilian nuclear agreement.

That the president has pushed for the deal despite considerable opposition at home has not been lost on his hosts.

In one move, Mr Bush ended decades of international isolation for India over its nuclear policy.

There are many who still believe the deal may not be ratified by the US Congress, since American law would have to be amended to set it in motion.

But others see it as a first but important step towards recognising India's nuclear ambitions and its status as a nuclear power state.

Doing business

The Bush visit was not all about nuclear ties, however.

Top business leaders spent time with both leaders arguing for greater access to each others markets.

President Bush repeatedly spoke of his admiration for India's economic progress but said more needed to be done.

Anti-Bush rally in Delhi
His visit was also marked by large-scale countrywide protests
He pressed for lower tariffs, greater foreign investment and more access for American farm products.

In a meeting with young Indian entrepreneurs in the southern infotech hub of Hyderabad, Mr Bush praised the quality of Indian engineers, scientists and said he favoured more student exchanges.

Protests

But not everyone welcomed the president's visit.

In one key moment during the Clinton visit in 2000, he was mobbed in the Indian parliament, as MPs clambered over each other, eager to shake his hand after his speech.

Mr Bush didn't go anywhere near parliament. Just as well, since he would have been greeted by a group of noisy communist and socialist MPs demonstrating against his visit.

The mood on the streets has also been quite defiant.

Tens of thousands of peoples have held large anti-war rallies across the cities, protesting at US policies on Iraq and Iran.

Most of the protests were contained but some of them turned violent.

The scale of the protests may have surprised the Americans.

But for the Indian leadership, it is a reminder that not everyone is embracing the new ties with America and with its Republican president.


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