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Fuel-thirsty India in pipeline balancing act
Boom, boom & butterflies

Shortly before the Prime Ministerís black stretch limousine entered the grounds of Palace No. 2 in the Argh (the royal complex) that is the official residence of President Hamid Karzai, guns boomed. The assembled media and security officials already inside the campus froze.

What! Theyíre here too.

Then the guns boomed and boomed again and again. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was being given a rare 21-gun salute.

Huh, the hug

President Karzai stood on the driveway, his beautiful cape subtly embroidered in a light shade of blue and gold on a black background billowing in the light breeze as the limousine drew up.

He put his Karakul fez on his head as the limousine stopped and the Prime Minister alighted. Karzai shook his hands and then embraced him.

Manmohan Singh, self-effacing as usual, was a trifle embarrassed but reciprocated the gesture.

Rahulís role

No one knows Rahul Gandhiís programme in detail. At the press conference, Rahul made his first appearance in his diplomatic avatar ' fawn suit, rimless glasses of the latest understated fashion. The press conference was held in the gardens of Palace No. 2.

As Manmohan Singh and Karzai took questions, Natwar Singh, rose on his breast pocket and cap on head, pointed out the shady trees to Rahul.

According to the official programme, Rahul is to accompany the Prime Minister on every engagement. The official engagements for today end by 7 in the evening. Where does he go after that'

SPG disarmed

In the lead-up to the Prime Ministerís visit, the Indian security contingent has had to contend with several rings of guards.

There were the footsoldiers of the US, the troops of the Afghan National Army, then there were the private security guards of mostly prematurely-retired US special forces soldiers hired by security companies such as Dynacorps, then the ISAF and the US army.

Indiaís Special Protection Group (SPG), the elite protection squad for Indiaís VIPs, had to negotiate their way through for access. They were told they will have the access but they can carry no weapon. The SPG was disarmed.

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