The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Kalamís trip exposes security holes in Emirates shield

New Delhi, Oct. 26: Trust, but verify, goes the adage. But officials in the United Arab Emirates prefer not to verify.

More worryingly, Indian security officials entrusted with providing fool-proof protection to A.P.J. Abdul Kalam during his recent foreign trip appeared to endorse the Emirati prescription for VIP security.

The result was that the Presidentís security cover could have been breached any time during his three-day trip to the Emirates, the first stop on his week-long tour that included visits to Sudan and Bulgaria. Someone could have pierced the cover without arousing the suspicion of or being challenged.

There was more scope for a security breach during Kalamís UAE visit, which ended last Monday, compared to visits by previous Presidents.

Kalam had several official engagements where he was mingling with people ó there were at least seven such interactions in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

On each occasion, the Presidentís security was lax. Even his aide de camp, who is supposed to be by Kalamís side at all times, was never quite where he ought to be. The militaryís refrain was: ďThe ADC (aide de camp) is under instruction from the President to take it easy and not stand behind him in attention all the time.Ē

Had this occurred in Delhi, the city police commissionerís job would have been on the line. Instead, during a two-hour span, taxis breached the presidential motorcade at least twice. Also, someone could have positioned himself right behind Kalam when he visited the Indian High School and the Knowledge Village in Dubai.

That these security lapses occurred in the Emirates, where many Indian criminals have taken shelter, is worrying enough. But perhaps, the UAE authorities can be excused ó they may not be sufficiently experienced in handling VVIP security.

But the Presidentís security staff has no such defence, for it has been providing protection at Rashtrapati Bhavan for years.

Perhaps, the most serious security lapse was the one at the restricted VVIP area at Dubai international airport.

No media person was screened before boarding Kalamís aircraft. There were no Indian security personnel present when guests were boarding the plane ó perhaps they were being unusually unobtrusive. But it would appear that the President had been put at serious risk.

That risk persisted until Kalam landed in Bulgaria.

The East European country might have shrugged off the communist yoke and may be eyeing an entry into the European Union, but its security officers are as vigilant and suspicious as they were during Soviet times.

The officers trust, but they also verify. Taking no chances, they politely asked some Indian delegation members who had not displayed their special security pass to identify themselves.

There may have been times when Indian security personnel were standing some distance from Kalam ó this was never the case with the eagle-eyed Bulgarian security staff deployed to provide the President protection.

The fool-proof protection was reminiscent of the tight inner-cordon cover provided to Atal Bihari Vajpayee by the Special Protection Group.

It also makes a fit case for entrusting the Presidentís security to the SPG.

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