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Mangoes for nuclear deal: US press disappointed
Onkar Singh in New Delhi | March 03, 2006 00:08 IST
It quite an exciting day for the press covering the summit-level meeting between American President George W Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at Hyderabad House, New Delhi. Although, there were times when tempers flared and verbal fights ensued between American officials and Indian journalists.
"Hey you - get up from these seats and move to the other side. This section is reserved for American journalists," a lady official of the American embassy told Amit Barua, a senior Indian journalist.
He responded - "I will move if an official from the Ministry of External Affairs tells me to."
Subsequently, an official from the Press Information section of the American embassy came charging in, asking journalists to move and was chastised by being told they didn't recognise him. It was only when some officials from the MEA stepped in, was the matter resolved.
But there were pleasant exchanges, too. Rodney S B Batten, a photojournalist from NBC, helped a cameraman by holding the lights during a shoot so the reporter (Barkha Dutt of NDTV) could finish her piece to camera. "I would help my colleagues in any country, just as I would like to be helped, too," he said.
Getting into Hyderabad House was not as much of a problem as was getting information. Both American and Indian officials were not available and those who did make fleeting appearances refused to divulge any details.
However, Indian journalists were able to break the news of the nuclear deal getting underway before the Americans did. National Security Advisor M K Narayanan briefed them before any American official did.
Sharad Pawar, Minister of Agriculture, Kapil Sibal Minister of Science and Technology and minister in waiting for the President and Minister of Defence Pranab Mukherjee were the first ones to come out and interact with one another.
American Ambassador David Mulford was busy checking out the places where Condolezza Rice and other ministers would be sitting.
In fact, Indian journalists (especially those with television networks) were at the venue as early as 7.30 am, for hourly updates. The American press came only after Bush and Dr Singh posed for an official photo before going in for the meeting.
And American journalists were not willing to part with any information - "We know as much as you do and I am not speaking on record."
In fact, they were furious at the end of the press conference, saying that America was given mangoes in exchange for the nuclear deal. "Bush gets mangoes for N-deal. How is that for a front page headline," one journalist laughed.
Complete coverage: Bush in India