New Delhi: After having been received by PM Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur at the Delhi airport, US President Barack Obama and Michelle visited the 16th century Humayun Tomb as a cultural part of their three day visit to India on Sunday.
At the entrance of the monument, Obama was received by
ASI Director-General Gautam Sengupta and other officials. "Wonderful. Let`s take a look," Obama said as he
entered the main building. Then, ASI Superintendent
Archaeologist, Delhi, K K Mohammad, took the US First Couple
around the monument explaining its history.
Mohammad said Obama was curious to know about the time
taken to build the monument. He was also told the structure
was a confluence of three architecural styles -- Persian,
Central Asian and Indian.
Michelle did not ask many questions and wanted to know
the importance of lotus on a wall at the monument. She was
told that it reflected the Indian influence on the builders of
The visit that started at 5pm lasted 45 minutes wherein the President was shown around the Mughal era mausoleum. Humayun`s tomb, a UNESCO world heritage site, is said to be a model for the Taj Mahal in Agra. Located in Nizamuddin East of Delhi, it was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent. It was also the first structure to use red sandstone at such a scale.
The complex, swarming with plainclothesmen, had turned into a virtual fortress and kept out of bounds the general public.
The Obamas also interacted with 14 kids, the children of those involved in the renovation of the complex, and shook hands with them. Obama bent on his knees and chatted with the children who were dressed in their school uniforms. He and Michelle also distributed gifts -- a
two-and-half-inch long silver bookmark with Presidential seal
which also carried Obama signature -- to the children. The
kids, aged from 4 to 10 years of age and accompanied by their parents, were advised to work and study hard by the President.
"It is spectacular. If our guys have to build it in
seven years, it would be pretty tough. Good contractor," a
visibly impressed Obama said after visiting the monument.
About the national capital, he said "Delhi is such modern
city yet rooted in civilisational heritage."
"Through the rise and fall of empires, Indian
civilisation has endured and led the world to new heights of
achievement. The world owed a profound debt to India and its
people," Obama wrote in the visitor`s book at the Humayun`s
Tomb. Michelle signed below his signature.
The Presidential entourage then drove to the ITC Maurya hotel where Obamas are staying. The Obamas were a given a "nice, warm traditional"
welcome -- the trademark Maurya welcome termed `Brides of
India` -- as shehnai played in background and two girls attired in a
lehenga and a Bengali saree received them.
PM, wife receives Obamas at airport
Indicative of the importance India accords to its emerging strategic relationship with the US, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur personally welcomed Obama and Michelle at the city airport.
The Air Force One touched down at the Delhi Airport at 3.19 PM and the President and the First Lady waved their hands while getting down from the aircraft.
Soon after alighting from the aircraft, Obama hugged Singh after shaking hands with him and greeted his wife Gursharan Kaur with a peck on her cheek. Michelle did the same to Singh and Kaur.
The couples were seen talking for a few minutes before the visiting dignitaries introduced to officials in the reception line including Minister-in-Waiting Salman Khursheed, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Indian Ambassador to the US Meera Shankar.
Singh, 78, and Obama, 49, share a special chemistry and have praised each other on several occasions. Obama hosted the first state dinner of his presidency for Manmohan Singh in Washington on November 24 last year.
The Obamas are in Delhi on the second part of their three-day maiden visit to India. Specific announcements on issues like counter-terrorism, regional security and clean energy are likely to be announced after talks between the two leaders tomorrow.
Singh had received Obama`s predecessor George W Bush at the airport when he visited India in 2006. The Prime Minister had also gone to the airport to personally receive Saudi Arabia King Abdullah and Nepal’s Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala.
Obama then proceeded to the Roosevelt House located inside the US Embassy for the reception by the US Ambassador and will then meet the Embassy staff.
Obama, who arrived in Mumbai yesterday afternoon, paid tributes to the victims of the 2008 Mumbai carnage and said his stay at the iconic Taj Mahal Hotel, one of the targets of the Mumbai terror strikes, was intended to send a strong message. Before embarking for Delhi, Obama and Michelle celebrated Diwali with kids in a school in Mumbai and then interacted with students at the St. Xavier`s College in a typical US townhall style.
Later in the evening, the Obamas attended a private dinner hosted by the Prime Minister at his official residence, 7 Race Course Road.
ITC Maurya under siege for Obama`s visit
ITC Maurya, where the Obamas will stay till Tuesday morning, was swarming with hundreds of US and Indian security personnel Sunday as the luxury hotel prepares to receive its most high-profile guests this year.
"We have placed several policemen from Delhi Police`s mounted division, ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force), and CISF (Central Industrial Security Force) personnel. Security officials in plain clothes are also manning the road," a senior police official said.
American security personnel and officials are also present outside the hotel.
Security agencies in Delhi have deployed snipers at rooftops, two battalions of Delhi Police outside the ridge opposite ITC Maurya, 15 companies of paramilitary officials and elite National Security Guard (NSG) personnel.
"We will also have around 400 Delhi traffic policemen to facilitate the movement of Obama`s entourage, on all routes it will take," the police official said.
During his visit in Delhi, a five-tier security cover comprising Indian and American security officials will surround Obama.