Manmohan Singh, wife to receive Obamas’ at Delhi airport

Sunday, November 7, 2010

NEW DELHI - The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, and his wife, Gursharan Kaur, are expected to receive US President Barack Obama and U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama when they land here on Sunday afternoon.

Dr. Singh personally took the decision to go to the tarmac at the Air Force Station Palam, next to the Indira Gandhi International Airport to receive the Obamas’, who will arrive on Air Force One at 3.35 p.m.

This will be the third time that Dr. Singh will break away from protocol of not receiving dignitaries at the airport. He has departed from this on two previous occasions - In March 2006, when he went to receive then US president George W. Bush and before that, when he went to receive Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdullah Aziz.

The decision, according to one local daily, is an indication of how important the Indian leadership is seeing this visit by an American president.

During President Obama’s tenure in the White House (since January 2009), India’s relationship with the United States has grown in various sectors, and has been described by Obama as a defining partnership of the 21st century.

Obama is the fifth American president to visit India, the others being D.D. Eisenhower (1959), Richard Nixon (1969), Jimmy Carter (1978), Bill Clinton (2000) and George W. Bush (2006).

During his two-day stopover in the Indian capital, a multi-layered security has been put in place.

Security and intelligence officials have already secured and sanitized the ITC Maurya Hotel in Delhi, where the Obamas’ will be staying during their visit. All routes leading to and out of the hotel have been placed under surveillance by both American and Indian security and intelligence agencies due to the high profile visit.

The ITC Maurya Sheraton has been made out of bounds for the public. Snipers have been deployed on rooftops along the route that the Obamas’ will take during the next two days.

Places like Humayun”s tomb and Rajghat, the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, which are on the US President’s itinerary, have been closed to other visitors.

Around 2,000 police and paramilitary personnel will be deployed in and around the hotel, which had earlier hosted US Presidents Bill Clinton in 2000 and George W Bush in 2006 besides US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last year.

Proximity security to Obama will be given by his guards while the other cordons will be manned by personnel from Delhi Police and paramilitary forces as also the elite National Security Guards (NSG). The inner ring comprises 200 American secret service agents, while the outer ring will be manned by the Delhi police.

Mock security drills have been carried out Parliament, where the US President will address a joint session on Monday evening.

“The arrangements that we have made for him have been done several times before, when the Pakistani head of state visited us or when the Israeli Prime Minister had come. There is no special treatment just because he is the American President,” said Satender Garg, Joint Commissioner of Police, Traffic. (ANI)

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