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Flashback: US Presidents who came calling

Last updated on: November 3, 2010 10:39 IST

1959: Dwight D Eisenhower

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Barack Obama will be the sixth American president to set foot on Indian soil when he arrives in India on November 5th for a four-day visit.

Let's assess earlier American presidential visits to India.

Dwight D Eisenhower was the first to come visiting more than 50 years ago. Eisenhower's visit to India in December 1959 was part of his Asia tour, planned ahead of his meeting with Western leaders in Paris.

High Point: The New York Time wrote: 'It did not seem to matter much whether Mr Nehru had actually requested or been given a guarantee that the US would help India to meet further Chinese communist aggression. What mattered was the obvious strengthening of Indian-American friendship to a point where no such guarantee was necessary.'

Low Point: Eisenhower said that while the American relationship with India was of the head, that with Pakistan was of the heart.

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Image: Dwight D Eisenhower

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1969: Richard Nixon

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Richard Nixon, the 37th president, was the second American president to visit India. He made a one-day trip in July 1969, about six months after he assumed presidency.

Nixon's visit came at a politically turbulent period, when then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi was fighting with her opponents in the Congress party over who should fill the post of president after Zakir Husain died, Dennis Kux, a former US ambassador, wrote in his book "India and the United States: Estranged Democracies 1941-1991".

High Point: A moving speech Nixon made while planting a tree at Raj Ghat.

Low Point: The visit was pretty much a disaster. 'Neither Mrs Gandhi nor Nixon displayed much warmth. The substantive discussion, mainly on Vietnam, lacked spark and animation,' newspapers noted.



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1978: Jimmy Carter

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Jimmy Carter was the third US president to visit India nine years later, in January 1978. During his three-day stay in the capital, he was caught by microphones telling his aides that a "cold and blunt message" should be delivered to the Indians over its nuclear ambitions.

High Point: His visit was billed to strike a chord with farmers, being a peanut farmer himself.

Low Point: Despite professed goodwill for India, he delivered a cold and blunt message to the then prime minister, Morarji Desai, over India's nuclear ambitions.



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2000: Bill Clinton

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Twenty-two years later, in March 2000, Bill Clinton became the fourth US president to visit India. His daughter Chelsea Clinton accompanied him. His itinerary was packed with visits to Agra, Jaipur, Hyderabad and Mumbai besides Delhi. Clinton's five-day trip was the longest by a US president. 

In his address to parliament, where he was virtually mobbed by MPs, Clinton favoured talks between India and Pakistan and urged restraint in its nuclear programme.

High PointHis charismatic speech in Parliament. He may have been involved in a scandal back home but it had little impact in India. Clinton's visit to Andhra Pradesh went a long way in showcasing India's arrival on the IT stage.

Low Point: Actually there was not any. The father-daughter team that came to India loved the food and the country, and got on famously with Indians.

 


Image: File photo shows President Clinton with Rajasthani women
Photographs: Sondeep Shankar/Saab Press
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2006: George W Bush

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George W Bush was the fifth US president to visit India, in March 2006. Bush and first lady Laura barely spent 60 hours -- the shortest by a US president after Nixon's 23-hour stopover.

His visit came at a time when Indian Muslims were protesting the Iraq war.

High Point: It was George Bush who enabled India to enter the world of civil nuclear commerce.

Low Point: Because the Left parties were supporting the government, he was not allowed to address Parliament. When he asked India to help the US in spreading democracy all over the world. Including Burma, an Indian spokesman had said that India was not in the business of purveying democracy.


Image: File photo shows Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh with US President George W Bush
Photographs: Rediff Archive
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