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Notes From Clinton’s India Trip

March 21, 2000

AGRA, India (AP) _ The Taj Mahal is plenty grand on its own but President Clinton’s motorcade route to the monument of love needed some work.

In preparation for his visit Wednesday, the city of Agra painted electricity poles and repaired miles of roads. As well, hedges were pruned and leaks fixed in garden fountains at the renowned mausoleum.

But other people were busy blowing up black balloons, which they intended to pop in protest of Clinton’s visit.

``The police will block all roads and they will try to stop us,″ said Surekha Yadav, president of the Indian People’s Front and an organizer of anti-Clinton protests. ``But we will try to reach the Taj.″

``People residing along the route have been prohibited from even going to the terrace of their houses,″ complained Ram Dhiraj, another protest leader.

Opponents of Clinton’s visit are critical of America’s long-standing friendship with Pakistan, India’s hostile neighbor, and worried India will be persuaded to sign on to a global nuclear test ban.

Officials in Agra, 120 miles southeast of New Delhi, held 22 meetings in two weeks to prepare for Clinton, his daughter Chelsea and their entourage.

Clinton is to give a speech on environmental protection before visiting the Taj Mahal, India’s biggest tourist attraction.

The 17th century white marble mausoleum along the Yamuna River was built by Emperor Shah Jehan for his queen, Mumtaz Mahal, after she died in childbirth.

It’s a return visit for Chelsea; she was here with her mother in 1995.


BOMBAY, India (AP) _ Clinton will wake up to a breathtaking view of the Arabian Sea on the final day of his India trip, in an island city that goes by two names - Bombay and Mumbai.

Four years after India’s financial capital was renamed Mumbai, as it was originally known in the local language, arguments persist on the wisdom of that move and many people won’t go along with it.

``I prefer Bombay because it’s been the longest in use,″ said historian Sharda Dwivedi. ``It’s a name that is global and everyone connects with.″

In the 16th century, the Portuguese called it ``Mom Baim″ and later ``Bom Bahia″ which meant ``a good bay.″ British colonial rulers in the 17th century pronounced this ``Bombay″ and the name stuck.

Artists are touching up posters of Clinton to be strung out on roads his motorcade is likely to pass Friday. But larger-than-life portraits of Indian movie stars are more likely to catch his eye here, in the city that is the hub of India’s film industry _ known as Bollywood.


NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ Clinton met privately in his suite Tuesday with the family of Ripan Katyal, who was knifed to death by hijackers of an Indian Airlines plane in December.

The plane was hijacked Dec. 24 on a flight to New Delhi from Nepal. It stopped in northern India, where Katyal was killed.

Clinton met Katyal’s widow, Rachna, and her parents for about 15 minutes.

The president wanted ``to express support for victims of terrorism,″ said Clinton spokesman Mike Hammer. ``It was a very touching private meeting.″

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