Thousands to protect Bush on first India visit

About 5,000 personnel including snipers, commandos and U.S. marines using helicopters, bomb detectors and electronic jammers will protect President George W. Bush during his visit to India this week, officials said on Monday.

The personnel would be part of a three-ring security cordon around the U.S. president and First Lady Laura Bush who are due to arrive in New Delhi for their maiden visit to the subcontinent on Wednesday, they said.

“He is a much-threatened VIP.

We are fully geared,” Manish Agarwal, a top Delhi police officer involved in security operations, told Reuters.

His comments came as Delhi police arrested two suspected militants belonging to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based militant group fighting Indian rule in disputed Kashmir, the Press Trust of India news agency said.

Two pistols and 3 kg (6.6 lb) of the explosive material RDX were seized from them, it said.

Islamist militants are frequently arrested or killed in gun battles with police in the Indian capital and it was not immediately known if the men arrested on Monday had anything to do with Bush’s visit.

Besides the inner-ring of security forces, an outer cordon would be deployed “as deep as possible” to thwart any attack by a rocket launcher, Agarwal said.

“A rocket launcher normally has a 1,000-meter (3,300 ft) range so we would be deployed in forests around venues,” he said.

“We will have 360-degree rooftop surveillance around all the venues.”

Agarwal said precautions were also being taken to quell “snap protests” by Muslim groups and communist parties who have announced plans to demonstrate against Bush.

Bush is also due to briefly visit India’s southern IT hub of Hyderabad, where some Muslim groups have launched a signature campaign against his policies.

Hyderabad, which has a sizeable Muslim population, has witnessed big protests against the publication of cartoons lampooning Prophet Mohammad.

Bush would hop around the city in helicopters to take part in events scheduled for him, police said.

(Additional reporting by S. Radha Kumar in HYDERABAD)