President Obama arrives in Delhi, PM sets aside protocol to receive him

Sunday, November 7, 2010

NEW DELHI - Setting aside protocol, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh personally received US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the Air Force Station, Palam, next to the Indira Gandhi International Airport on Sunday afternoon.

President Obama arrived here after a successful Mumbai visit during which he met India’s Generation Next at St Xavier’s College and celebrated Diwali with kids of Holy Name School, Colaba, this morning.

The Prime Minister’s wife, Gursharan Kaur, was also present to receive the Obamas’ when they landed here at around 3: 35 p.m. after a busy schedule in Mumbai. Minister of protocol for Obama’s visit Salman Khursheed and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao were also present along with Dr. Singh.

Dr. Manmohan Singh personally took the decision to go to the tarmac at the Air Force Station to receive the Obamas’ who arrived on Air Force One.

This was 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.

President Obama and Michelle Obama will head directly to the renovated tomb of the second Mughal Emperor Humayun soon after their arrival in New Delhi on Sunday afternoon.

The Obamas’ are expected to reach the tomb complex at around 4 p.m., and will be received by the Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Gautam Sengupta and Union Culture Secretary Jawahar Sircar. Senior officials of the ASI and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), which spearheaded the renovation of the mausoleum complex in 2004, will show the Obamas’ around during his 40-minute visit.

The Obamas’ are also likely to interact with five tutored conservation workers during their visit.

They will also meet with some underprivileged children, aged between five and eight years, who have been attending makeshift schools in the complex. A possible interaction with traditional artisans who are renovating the mausoleum’s pillars and latticed windows is also expected.

The Obamas will get a classical and traditional welcome when they arrive at the ITC Maurya Hotel, where they will be staying on Sunday and Monday.

Hotel sources said that Shehnais, which are used popularly in north Indian weddings, would be played in the background as America’s first couple and their car cavalcade enters the hotel premises.

Women dressed in lehengas and saris would receive the Obamas’ at the VIP entrance of the hotel on Sunday afternoon.uring President Obama’s two-day stopover in the Indian capital, a multi-layered security has been put in place.

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. (ANI)

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