Washington, May 3: Corporate America woke up this morning to intense speculation that India is about to become the next “happiest place on earth”.

The speculation stems from a meeting last week between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and two Walt Disney Co. executives: chief executive Michael Eisner and chief operating officer Robert Iger, who is to succeed Eisner in September.

“The happiest place on earth” is Disney’s catchline for describing its world of resorts, theme parks, cruises, vacation clubs and much more.

A Hong Kong publication got word of the meeting between the Prime Minister and the two Disney executives.

On Sunday, it came out with a report quoting an unnamed official of the urban development ministry in New Delhi as saying: “Disney has approached us for land outside Delhi to build a theme park.

“The company is very upbeat about the project. Its top officials are lobbying hard to wangle a very, very big plot.”

By the time news travelled half way across the world from Hong Kong to California and Disney executives returned from the weekend to their offices yesterday, they were in a tizzy.

Jay Rasulo, president of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, hastily put out a statement to say that “we have not had any discussions in India regarding the opening of a theme park or purchasing land and do not plan any in the foreseeable future”.

On reconsideration, Disney spokesperson Michele Nachum decided to be more cautious, but also a little more forthcoming, even if between the lines. She confirmed the meeting between the Prime Minister and her two bosses but pre-empted any questions by insisting that she did not know what they discussed.

Nachum would not confirm whether Disney proposed to build a theme park in India and limited herself to corporate hyperbole. “We are constantly evaluating strategic markets around the world to grow our parks and resorts business and the Disney brand.”
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