Agreement signed for US consulate in Hyderabad


Hyderabad : The Andhra Pradesh government and US authorities Tuesday signed a lease agreement paving the way for establishing here the fourth American consulate in India.

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The agreement for leasing the Paigah Palace, a heritage building, for the consulate was signed by officials from the two sides in the presence of Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy and US ambassador to India David C. Mulford.

Mulford told newsmen that the consulate would start functioning from the temporary facility "sometime in late 2008" and a permanent facility would come up by 2011 on land offered by the state government.

Mulford said $7.6 million was provided in the budget for renovation of the building and other expenditure while more money would be required for the staff and operations.

The new consulate would immensely benefit the large number of professionals from Andhra Pradesh seeking US visas. About 40 percent of those applying for visas in the US consulate in Chennai are from Andhra Pradesh.

This is the fourth US consulate in India after Kolkatta, Mumbai and Chennai. US President George W. Bush had announced setting up the consulate here in March last year.

Noting that there was significant demand for consular services and for issuing visas in India, the US ambassador said the new consulate would relieve pressure on the visa system.

Mulford was all praise for Hyderabad. "We chose Hyderabad as it is an ideal place to locate the consulate. We have a very large visa demand from Andhra Pradesh. While choosing this city we saw what is the nature of the community. The community here is diverse.

"We did not want a city with problems. Hyderabad is a city that is well managed. It is a busy place but it is a city that works. We were also attracted because the city has a mixed group of people and a large Muslim community.

"My judgement after visiting Hyderabad was that it is a city with a very broad and diversified economic base. It has a mix of all businesses like biotechnology, life sciences and IT. It has a good blend of businesses.

"We have a long history of relations with people of this state. Many professionals from this state were settled in the US decades ago and today they are successful and are important player in American life," said Mulford.

With the signing of the agreement, the American authorities will take possession of the palace, located in Begumpet near the existing airport in the heart of the city.

US officials will renovate the building and chalk out plans for the consulate operations. The palace currently houses the office of the Hyderabad Urban Development Authority (HUDA).

Built in the European style in the 1880s during Nizam's rule, the palace has 20 spacious rooms and four huge halls with a high ceiling that goes up to 26 feet.

"It is a big day for us," said the chief minister while promising all assistance to American authorities.

He said the government would provide 12 acres of land for a permanent facility for the US consulate in Gacchibowli area, which houses many IT majors. "Formalities for handing over the land are in process."

"One among every four professionals in Silicon Valley is an Indian and one among every four Indians is from Andhra Pradesh," he added.