Friendship, the great leveller

Dwight D Eisenhower

was the first US president to visit in December 1959. The media wrote: “It did not seem to matter  whether the US would help India to meet Chinese aggression. What mattered was the strengthening of Indian-American friendship.” The damper, however, was  his remark that while the American relationship with India was of the head, that with Pakistan was of the heart.

Richard Nixon’s was the second presidential visit for a day in July 1969. It came at a politically turbulent time when then Indian premier Indira Gandhi was fighting with her opponents over who should fill the post of president after Zakir Husain died. Neither Gandhi nor Nixon displayed much warmth during their discussions, mainly on Vietnam, which lacked spark and animation.

Jimmy Carter, the third US president to visit in January 1978, stayed three days 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. Carter went to Daulatpur village in Haryana, where his mother had worked as a Peace Corps volunteer. Carter and wife Rosalynn presented the village with its first television set.

Bill Clinton, the fourth US president to visit in March 2000, came with daughter Chelsea. His 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 regime. Clinton's visit to Andhra Pradesh went a long way in showcasing India's arrival on IT stage.

George W Bush was the fifth US president to visit in March 2006. During the 60-hour visit, India agreed to a separation of its civilian and military nuclear facilities - a key step leading to the signing of the historic India-US nuclear agreement for civilian purposes.

His visit came at a time when Indian Muslims were protesting the Iraq war. Because the Left parties were supporting the government, he was not allowed to address Parliament.

Barack Obama, the 44th US president, was the sixth to visit India, and the second after Nixon to come in his first term in office.

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