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Home > News > Report

'Madam President, it's got a nice ring to it'

Aziz Haniffa in Washington DC | February 23, 2006 00:39 IST

Inthe opening remarks of his address to the Asia Society on the eve of his trip to South Asia, President George W Bush, after thanking Vishaka Desai, president of Asia Society for the introduction, looking toward the front row of South Asian diplomats invited to listen to his speech, said, "I appreciate the members of the diplomatic corps that have joined us today, in particular Ambassador (Ronen) Sen from India, (and) Ambassador (Jahangir) Karamat from Pakistan."

"Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedules to come and hear the President give a talk," he said.

But there was no Ronen Sen in that front row. Sen had lefton Tuesdayfor New Delhi immediately after a speech at the National
Press Club and a meeting with Bush's National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, to prepare for Bush's arrival in India next week.

So seated in that front row, was the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Indian embassy and charge d'affaires, Raminder Singh Jassal in a bright blue turban. He wasseen, after Bush's speech,shaking hands with the President when the latter did a quick exchange of greetings with the South Asian diplomats assembled before the Secret Service whisked him away.

But if Sen was recognised in absentia, Desai, after she introduced Bush was not only accorded a friendly kiss on the cheek by
the President, but also addressed as 'Madam President,' with the additional quip that 'it's got a nice ring to it.'

Desai, in her introduction said that 'for 50 years, Asia Society has been dedicated to deepening connections between Asians and
Americans', and added, 'In fact, today, with your speech sir, we launch the celebration of our 50th anniversary'.

She said thatin building close ties with Asia, nothing is more significant than a visit by the President of the United States, and 'I
am especially delighted as you visit the subcontinent.'

"As an Indian by birth, now a proud citizen of the United States, both parts of me live happily as president of the Asia Society," Desai said, and added, "We are deeply honoured that you have chosen Asia Society to make what we know will be an important speech heard around the world, most likely live, especially in South Asia."

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