Obama begins India tour

US President Barack Obama arrived today in Mumbai on the first leg of his three-day visit.

Zeenews Bureau

Mumbai: US President Barack Obama arrived
here Saturday on the first leg of his three-day visit that will
seek to focus on opening up of Indian markets for American
businesses and deal with wide range of political issues,
including strategy on counter-terrorism.

The Air Force One carrying Obama and his wife Michelle
touched down at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport
here at 12.50 pm.

Apart from Michelle, Obama is being accompanied by top officials in what would be the President`s longest foreign trip since he assumed presidency two years ago

Obama and his wife walked down the ladder to a red carpet
welcome and were received by Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok
Chavan who presented him a memento.

The other dignitaries who received him on the tarmac included
Union Minister for Minority Affairs Salman Khursheed, who will
be the minister-in-waiting, and Indian Ambassador in the US Meera

On sighting the US Ambassador in India Timothy Roemer in
the reception line, the President gave him a spirited
hand-shake and the envoy gave him a warm embrace.

The Obama couple exchanged a few pleasantries with the
Roemers before walking briskly to Marine One which took them to
INS Shikra.

From the Indian Naval base, he drove down to the iconic
Taj Mahal Hotel, one of the targets of the ghastly November 2008 terror attacks that left 166 people dead including five Americans.

He checked into the hotel at 1.30 pm.

Remembering 26/11 martyrs at the Taj

Soon after their arrival at the hotel, the Obamas viewed the 26/11 memorial and paid respects to the victims of the deadly terror strike.

Obama wrote in the guest book: “We will always remember the events of 26/11; not only the sorrow, but also the courage and humanity that was displayed that day,” he wrote. “The United States stands in solidarity with all of Mumbai and all of India in working to eradicate the scourge of terrorism, and we affirm our lasting friendship with the Indian people.” He signed his name and the date; Mrs. Obama signed her name next to his.

He also placed a white rose at the memorial.

The US first couple then met family members of the martyrs and listened to the experiences of some of the survivors.

In his speech made shortly afterwards, Obama commended the people of Mumbai for their resilience and said that the US and India will continue to work closely towrds eliminating terrorism.

Excerpts of Speech »

Gandhi – His inspiration

Following his engagements at the Taj, Obama drove down to the historic Mani Bhavan, the museum of Mahatma Gandhi`s memorabilia, located in the quiet bylanes of Gamdevi, around 5 km north of the Taj.

After paying tribute to the Father of the Nation and viewing Gandhi memorabilia, Obama spent some time alone in Gandhiji’s room.

Economy on agenda

Obama attended a meeting with the captains of Indian and US industry, top businessmen and corporate honchos from the two countries and addressed the US-India Business Council Summit in the evening.

Hotel Trident Oberoi was also one of the sites targeted during the 26/11 terror attacks.

There he gave a landmark speech which called for US investment in India`s growth story. Click to read what he said there.»

Simultaneously, First Lady Michelle Obama interacted with differently abled children at Mumbai University. She danced to `Rang de Basanti` and played hop-scotch.

Celebrating Diwali

Sunday will be a relatively light day for Obama in Mumbai, when he will celebrate Diwali with schoolchildren and youths at a venue in south Mumbai. He is to address a gathering of select student from different city colleges at the St. Xavier`s College.

During the entire trip, Obama`s engagements would be centred within a five-km radius from the Taj.

Sunday afternoon, he will takes for New Delhi for the remainder of his Nov 6-9 India visit, including private dinner with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Nov 7 and official talks and address to parliament Nov 8.

Obama- Sixth US President on India visit

Barack Obama`s trip to India is the sixth by a US President since Dwight D Eisenhower became the first to come visiting more than 50 years ago.

Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W Bush were the other US presidents - in that order - to visit the country.

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