NEW DELHI: The preparations for US President Barack Obama’s visit as Republic Day Chief Guest next month are going ahead in right earnest. In a preliminary field trip, the advance team visited potential venues to sketch an outline for the historical trip.
Officials said while there had been discussions, the outline was still to be worked out with a lot depending on the demand for an extremely high security cover for such a visit. Outside Delhi, Agra is being looked as a possible venue for a visit with the US team having scoped out Taj Mahal, the world heritage monument, during their trip last week. Obama had skipped Agra during his last visit here in 2010.
Since Taj Mahal is on the agenda, it is likely that First Lady Michelle Obama will also be part of the entourage. A photograph for a solo traveller at the monument of love would be incongruous. It remains to be seen if the first daughters Sasha and Malia will visit the capital.
Obama had promised to bring them to India.
The details of the visit are being chalked out by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), the Special Protection Group and various security agencies. In the MEA, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh is supervising all the arrangements, along with Chief of Protocol Jaideep Mazumdar and Joint Secretary (Americas) Vinay Kwatra.
Like the previous US Presidential visits, the Obamas’ stay in Delhi will be at the ITC Maurya, where the tower annexe a free-standing will be taken over during the visit.
So far, the Rashtrapati Bhavan has not yet been brought fully into the picture. However, it will be hosting at least three important events.
There is the Presidential banquet on January 25, followed by the start of the journey to Rajpath on the morning of January 26, followed by the “At Home” in the afternoon.
There are so far no indications that the timing of the Republic Day Parade will be shortened or modified in any sense. However, due to the large media contingent travelling with the US President – numbering around 100, a separate, larger enclosure may be carved out.
PM Modi will also be hosting the Obamas either for lunch at the Hyderabad House or at a small private dinner at his Race Course Road residence.