US President George W Bush will hold a meeting with nine prominent persons representing five religions tomorrow including a Shia leader from Lucknow, a Tibetan monk and a Dalit scholar.
Bush will meet these religious leaders on Thursday afternoon following the lunch hosted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
This list includes Mohammed Ammar Rizvi, a politician and Shia leader from Lucknow, Swami Agnivesh, Doboom Tulku, a Buddhist monk and scholar from Tibet House, Tarlochan Singh and Syed Zafar Mahmood, an advisor to the government and member of the Sachar committee looking into the socio-economic status of Muslims in India.
While Washington has been keen on the idea right from the start, sources said, there was some discomfort in New Delhi over such a meeting. Initially, the US was toying with the idea of holding this in the form of a ceremony at the Akshardham temple but decided against it after feelers that these meetings must not be made a public affair.
Sources said there was also a security rationale in not going ahead with an inter-religious public meeting given that some religious organizations are protesting the Bush visit. As a result, this interaction is being called a “private meeting” by Indian authorities while the US side is more candid with National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley indicating such a meeting ahead of the visit.
Bush is known to be sensitive to religion and takes these scruples seriously. He has often remarked at meetings that India despite its huge Muslim population, does not have an Al-Qaeda operative and said so in admiration while introducing the Prime Minister to wife Laura Bush last July.
Some of the other religious heads include L M Singhvi from the Jain community, James Massey, a prominent Dalit scholar, spokesperson for the Catholic Archdiocese in Delhi Dominique Emmanuel and Acharya Sri Vasa Goswami from the Sri Chaitanya Sansthan.