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Mahathir free with praise, not car plant

Hyderabad, Oct. 16: Chandrababu Naidu got a pat on the back from role model Mahathir Mohammad, who is on his first visit here, but is yet to get the green light for bringing Malaysian car plant Proton to Andhra Pradesh.

Mahathir paid rich tribute to Naidu’s leadership, which, he said, had “obviously led to the progress made in the last few years”. Observing that Hyderabad was a clean city, the Malaysian Prime Minister added that it was very difficult to keep Indian cities clean. “I am confident that Hyderabad is on the road to becoming one of India’s premier cities.”

In Hyderabad to scout for IT professionals, Mahathir said the city had an abundance of software engineers whose services were of great value to his country. He drove straight to Hitec City from the airport and also visited Infosys and the International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT).

Asked about the fate of the proposal to bring the Proton plant to Andhra Pradesh, Mahathir said there was a “hitch”. “I will look into it soon and ensure that the project takes off as early as possible,” he promised. The Andhra Pradesh chief minister, who was present with him, did not explain what the hitch was.

During a visit to Malaysia, Naidu had signed an informal memorandum of understanding to bring the car plant to Hyderabad. He had called Delhi from Kuala Lumpur and got the NDA government to send the required permission by fax.

Naidu and state industry minister K. Vidyadhar Rao said many Malaysian consortiums and companies were already working on ports and road projects in Andhra Pradesh.

The chief minister’s 25-minute presentation focused on the IT potential of Hyderabad. Naidu spoke about how he had transformed the state, stressing that he had opted for “change” on the lines of the South Korean experiment. “I am aware that Malaysia, too, followed the Korean experiment,” he told the dignitary.

Mahathir had arrived in the afternoon with a delegation of ministers and officials. Telugu Desam activists lined the road from the airport all the way to Hitec City, waving flags and shouting slogans.

Mahathir, who is on a three-nation tour, will leave for Delhi tomorrow morning to hold talks with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. He will also be visiting Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

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