Nov 9, 2011, 07.00am IST
RPG|IIFL|ICICI Lombard|ICICI Bank Ltd.
Nihar Gokhale, Manu Balachandran, Rohit Chandavarkar & Shilpy Sinha
MUMBAI: Former US president George W Bush on Tuesday delivered a blunt warning to Indians about the intentions of China. The former president who has courted trouble in the past with his aggressive and overthe-top assertions said China was looking to upstage India.
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“China’s No. 1 target is the US, next is India,” he told a group of select CEOs at a late dinner meet on Tuesday. Bush, the two-term president whose reign saw a dramatic improvement in Indo-US relations, also said his country’s patience with Pakistan was wearing thin, according to one of the participants.
“If the US had not befriended Pak, Pak would have become more dangerous. But now US patience is wearing off,” he said. In the course of a free-wheeling discussion, Bush also touched upon a number of important topics. He cautioned businessmen never to do business with Russia and said the EU would have a completely different look in five years but the euro would stay.
“If Iran goes after Israel, the US will go after Iran,” Bush said, referring to the tense stand-off in the Middle-East over Iran’s nuclear weapons programme. “While making history, timing is most important,” he added. Those attending the dinner meet included HDFC Chairman Deepak Parekh and ICICI Bank Chairman KV Kamath.
RPG promoter Harsh Goenka, GVK group promoter GVK Rao, Bajaj Auto chairman Rahul Bajaj and IIFL promoter Nirmal Jain were also present. “This event was kept a secret because the main condition from George W Bush’s office was that there will be no announcements about this engagement and no media coverage given to it.
Even the list of guests was kept secret,” said a senior executive from ICICI Lombard. The visit was organised ICICI Lombard and Fairfax Financial Holdings, a Torontobased company that owns 26% of the Indian general insurance company, and was attended by their top officials from India and the US.
It was planned about four months ago. Bush, who was president between 2000 and 2008, addressed about 60 officials of ICICI Lombard and Fairfax over a luncheon meeting. As with much else about the trip, the details of his address were not revealed.
Source said Bush asked them questions about the current economic scenario in India, recent terror bombings in Mumbai, and general security situation in Mumbai and India.
In the evening, a closed-door dinner for Bush was attended by leaders of the corporate world such as Parekh and Kamath. The ICICL Lombard spokesperson said the guest list was kept secret because of security reasons.
State security officials said Bush was scheduled to take off from Mumbai international airport at 7 am on Wednesday. US consulate sources said Bush’s visit was private. The security at Taj hotel was increased to Z level, which is usually provided for international VVIP visits.
Sources from the state security agencies said US secret service officials scanned the area a day in advance ahead of Bush’s arrival and provided the inner security cover while he was in Mumbai. He landed in a private jet on Monday night and travelled to the Taj by road in a small convoy.
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