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September 6, 2000
Chaos to reign at Delhi airport as PM takes off for US
Josy Joseph in New Delhi
Chaos will reign at the heavily guarded Indira Gandhi international airport on Thursday as Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his over 150-strong delegation leave on a fortnight-long United States visit at 00:15 hours IST.
Over 20 flights have been rescheduled, a wing of the international airport has been sealed off and hundreds of policemen and Special Protection Group personnel have been posted. Thousands of passengers, mostly headed abroad, will face hours of trouble, according to airport officials.
The special plane carrying the prime minister and his entourage normally takes off from the airport's technical area, which is exclusively used for VIP movement and defence flights.
The entourage will consist of several bureaucrats from the ministry of external affairs, commerce ministry, finance ministry and power ministry, 35 journalists and 30 businessmen.
National security advisor and principal secretary to the prime minister Brajesh Mishra and the prime minister's foster son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya will accompany Vajpayee, whose programmes on the sidelines of the United Nations' Millennium Summit are yet not clear.
According to a spokesman of the ministry of external affairs, the only two confirmed bilateral meetings Vajpayee has till now are with the prime ministers of Nepal and Bangladesh. The MEA is trying to arrange a meeting between Vajpayee and his Chinese counterpart, while ruling out a rendezvous with Pakistan's General Pervez Musharraf.
Among officials accompanying the prime minister on the special flight are joint secretaries in charge of Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, disarmament, UN and external publicity. The joint secretary (America) will join Vajpayee in the US. Foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh is in the US to prepare for the visit.
The business delegation has been trimmed down from 60 to 30 members.
The flight is expected to reach New York on Thursday afternoon.
His first function will be a dinner meeting with the Asian Society.
He is the thirty-third speaker at the Millennium Summit.
Vajpayee will sign the Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism 1999, moved by the French and supported by India.
He will also attend a function at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and an ayurvedic conference on September 9. He will also address a meeting of the Indo-American Association at Staten Island, on the outskirts of New York.
He is also expected to undergo extensive medical examination for his knee problem while in New York. He may also undergo laser treatment.
Vajpayee will arrive in Washington on September 13, and the next day he will be received at Capitol Hill. He would meet the speaker of the House and later address a joint meeting of the US Congress.
His lunch on September 14 will be with US Congress members of the Indian caucus. Later he would ill up with security and diplomatic think-tanks.
On September 15, he will meet President Bill Clinton.
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