G20 summit: How police secured key hotels for world leaders 

Delhi police personnel had undergone months of training and planning. The cops maintained “utter secrecy” by code naming the hotels where the heads of foreign states were staying.

Published: 13th September 2023 08:34 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th September 2023 08:34 AM   |  A+A-

Delhi police personnel kept a hawk’s eye at the areas of the capital where the G20 leaders and delegates were staying, besides the main venue Bharat Mandapam | Express

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: The G20 Leaders’ Summit passed off peacefully without any major untoward incident, but a lot went on in the background to ensure that same, from some security breaches to handling unexpected requests from foreign dignitaries.

To deal with any kind of situation, Delhi police personnel had undergone months of training and planning. This newspaper learnt that for this, the cops maintained “utter secrecy” by code naming the hotels where the heads of foreign states were staying.

This, according to some senior officials, is an old practice to maintain secrecy of the location of the person who is being provided the topmost level of security. The code names of the hotels were decided in a meeting of senior officials of Delhi Police and the Special Protection Group (SPG), the force responsible for the security of the Prime Minister. The security teams which accompanied the foreign delegates were also part of the meeting.

ITC Maurya, the hotel where US President Joe Biden was staying, was code-named ‘Pandora’ while the hotel of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was named ‘Samara’. Taj Mahal Hotel on Mansingh Road, where UAE Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan stayed, was given the code name ‘Paramount’.

Similarly, Le Meridien was code-named ‘Mahabodhi’ while the Rajghat and Pragati Maidan were referred to as ‘Rudrapur’ and ‘Niketan’ respectively. However, despite such a high level of secrecy and security maintained by the top officials of the Delhi Police, of which even junior officials were kept unaware, there were a few security breaches.

Biden convoy car at ‘Paramount’

On one of the days of the G20 Summit, a security breach was reported at the Taj Man Singh hotel, where the UAE Crown Prince was staying, when one of the cars from the US President’s convoy unexpectedly reached the hotel.

When the car was stopped, the driver told the security personnel that he had been assigned the task of transporting a businessman from the Lodhi Estate area to the hotel. However, it was not part of the original plan. Subsequently, the driver was detained by the Delhi Police and questioned. He claimed he was unaware of the exact route and destination initially set for him. He was later let off but removed from the US President’s convoy.

Saudi man’s unexpected visit

The security agencies went into a tizzy when a Saudi Arabian national came very close to the UAE Crown Prince at the Taj Mahal Palace where he was staying during the summit. The man, a police officer in Saudi Arabia, had recently arrived in Delhi and tried to approach the UAE Crown Prince in the hotel lobby to seek help for his ailing brother. He was questioned by the security in-charge and allowed to meet the Crown Prince.

Later, the Delhi Police detained and questioned him for hours, during which he said he was unaware of the security protocol. He was let off with a warning.

Cyber threat loomed large

International hackers reportedly made several failed attempts to hack Indian government websites to cause disturbance. During one such episode, the websites of the Delhi and Mumbai police departments briefly went down. Later, a hacker group claimed responsibility for the cyber attack. A similar attempt was made on some Delhi government websites as well, official sources said.

Sources said the origin of such hackers is usually Pakistan and Indonesia but this time there were some indications of Chinese hackers being involved which is being probed.

Unexpected requests by guests

Sources in the Delhi Police said that several “unscheduled requests” were made by foreign dignitaries — including visits to the Taj Mahal and even the Jama Masjid in north Delhi. The Tourist Police facilitated some visits while others were declined on security grounds. On September 8, a Turkish delegation visited the Jama Masjid late at night and half an hour there. 

Meanwhile, another foreign delegate was stopped midway as he tried to visit the iconic mosque in old Delhi. The delegate was told to return to the hotel as his visit could not be facilitated on such shornotice due to security concerns. 

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