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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 March 2006, 11:21 GMT
Notes from Mr Bush in South Asia

By Nick Bryant
BBC News, Delhi

The BBC's South Asia correspondent produces a scorecard from Delhi and Islamabad - a post-match summary on the Bush visit to the region.

DUBYA

Not for the first time, George W Bush has shown that he gets warmer welcomes from old Cold War antagonists and their allies than Washington's long-standing rivals.

Mr Bush and a buffalo
One of the less likely meetings during Mr Bush's visit
From coming nose to nose with a sleepy buffalo to triumphantly holding up a giant pumpkin, the trip to India seemed to offer him a much-needed tonic for his second-term blues.

There was a glorious moment as he finished working the rope line at the end of his keynote speech at the Purana Qila (Old Fort) on Friday night.

As he turned to leave, with his presidential entourage silhouetted against the floodlit ramparts of the old fort and a colonnade of palm trees, two swooning middle-aged Indian businessmen waved him wistfully away, as if they were lovers bidding farewell on a windswept railway platform.

It was part Brief Encounter, part Casablanca, and, well, part Brokeback Mountain. Even one of India's most hard-hitting journalists seemed temporarily to have gone slightly weak at the knees, noting that he was "much cleverer" than she expected.

Certainly, Mr Bush won many new friends here - which is not entirely surprising given the generosity of the nuclear agreement and the passion with which he argued that India's economic rise presented an opportunity for Americans rather than posing a threat.

In making so many concessions to seal the nuclear deal, he has also picked a bruising fight with the non-proliferation lobby in the US Congress - leading Republicans included - which he could well do without.

Mr Bush desperately needed some positive headlines to come from this trip - which he got in spades from the India press. But he faces an acid shower of criticism at home.

As the New York Times scathingly put it: "The nuclear deal that Mr Bush concluded with India threatens to blast a bomb-sized loophole through the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty... Mr. Bush should have just stayed home."

THE QUIET INDIAN

They make the oddest of couples: the Rawhide Texan and the buttoned-down Punjabi.

Manmohan Singh and George Bush in Delhi
Singh and Bush make the 'oddest of couples'
But Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appears to enjoy a surprisingly genial relationship with the president, which he has used to dramatic effect.

India looks set to end its atomic isolation, without any caps on its nuclear arsenal and without opening up its plutonium-producing fast breeder reactors to international inspection.

With the possible exception of offering Prime Minister Singh a time-share on his ranch in Crawford, or free room and board in the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House, it is hard to imagine how the deal could have been sweeter.

Mr Singh leveraged what has long been regarded as his most useful attribute: his unimpeachable character.

It gives him credibility at home, and authority abroad.

American critics of the nuclear deal will find it hard to portray this soft-spoken technocrat as a crazed proliferator. The Quiet Indian presents the acceptable face of what many consider an unacceptable deal.

THE GENERAL

Publicly admonished by President Bush in their joint press conference in Islamabad on Saturday, the larger-than-life General Pervez Musharraf looked a mere shadow of his usual, ebullient self.

Pervez Musharraf and George Bush
Gen Musharraf 'looked a mere shadow of his usual, ebullient self'
At times, it felt like watching a stern headmaster scolding an errant school boy for a less-than-satisfactory end of term report.

On democracy? Could do much better. On America's war on terrorism? Could do much better. On a nuclear deal with Pakistan? After AQ Khan, you deserve detention not a deal.

Pervez Musharraf is the region's great political showman. But Bush was so obviously the ringmaster on Saturday that it left the General looking greatly humbled.

WHITE HOUSE ADVANCE TEAM

Whether it was getting sniffer dogs to nose around the Gandhi memorial, which caused great offence in Delhi, or trying to segregate Indian reporters from Americans at the joint press conference, the White House advance team proved as boorish and ill-mannered as ever.

So, good for the argumentative Delhi correspondents who refused to relinquish their seats.

"Move - now," shouted a young American functionary, mistakenly thinking his dark shades and curly earpiece would intimidate his surly adversaries. Within seconds, he was forced to beat a hasty and humiliating retreat.

The journalists had won the battle of Hyderabad House.

INDIA'S FAVOURITE PAST TIME

The Bush visit showed once more that Test cricket is alive and well in India.

Cricket defeats diplomacy
It also showed that given the choice between watching the White House press corps bowling googlies at the president or Anil Kumble delivering pesky leg breaks at English batsmen, the Indian people will always opt for ball and ball.

Sure enough, when we dispatched a cameraman to film people watching the joint press conference last Thursday morning, everyone was watching the Test match against England in Nagpur.

MOST OVER-USED CLICHE?

'Passage to India' vies with 'So the leader of the world's most powerful democracy came face to face with the leader of the world's largest democracy.'

MOST VALUABLE COMMODITY AMONGST THE TRAVELLING PRESS CORPS?

Imodium.




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