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September 14, 2000
Vajpayee arrives in Washington
Savera R Someshwar and Amberish K Diwanji in Washington DC
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee arrived in Washington DC to a quiet reception at 1330 hours on Wednesday. The prime minister touched down at Andrews Air Base, Maryland, just a few kilometres from the capital of the United States of America, in the same Air-India aircraft that had brought him from New Delhi to New York on September 7.
At the air base, he was received by the administration's chief of protocol, Marilyn French, and Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Karl 'Ricky' Inderfurth.
French went into the aircraft to welcome the prime minister to Washington. Immediately from the air base, the prime minister's cavalcade drove down to Blair House, located near the White House, where he will stay in Washington.
At Blair House, a unified service band, comprising the US army, navy, and air force, played the Indian national anthem and then the US national anthem.
It is after a long gap that an Indian prime minister has chosen to stay at Blair House, where all guests of the US president or anyone on a state visit are put up. Jawaharlal Nehru stayed at Blair House during his three visits to the US – 1949, 1956, 1961 – and Indira Gandhi during her first two visits to the US – 1966 and 1971 – stayed there.
However, Morarji Desai broke tradition and stayed at a hotel, as did Indira Gandhi on her 1982 visit. This habit was continued by Rajiv Gandhi on his visits and by P V Narasimha Rao on his 1994 tour of the US. Rao was the last Indian prime minister to visit Washington.
On September 14, Vajpayee will address a joint session of Congress, meet members of the Senate International Relations Committee and have lunch with members of the India Caucus.
On September 15, President Bill Clinton will officially receive him on the south lawns of the White House.
The prime minister has a busy itinerary ahead of him in Washington as compared to the leisurely pace in New York, where for he had no official functions these last three days .
His last function was on Wednesday morning when he addressed an India-US Business Summit, organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry, at the Waldorf Astoria hotel, New York.
About 300 people attended the CII summit, including 40 American chief executives and about 120 Indian chief executives. The prime minister's speech was very well received, especially his announcements on liberalisation plans that are on the anvil. And it was with the applause ringing in his ears that Vajpayee flew to Washington DC.
rediff.com has assigned Associate Editors Amberish K Diwanji and Savera R Someshwar to cover Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's visit to the United States. Don't forget to log into rediff.com for news of this historic visit as it happens!
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