Obama’s India itinerary: Diwali with kids, no date with Taj

Prez Obama and first lady Michelle would pay a tribute to 26/11 victims and celebrate Diwali with school kids, but they will miss a date with Taj.

Washington: US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle would begin their India visit on November 6 with a message of condolence for the victims of 26/11 and celebrating Diwali with school kids, however the couple will miss a date with Taj.

According to a top White House official, Obama would pay a visit to the Gandhi Museum in Mumbai where he is also scheduled to attend a major business meeting, before heading to New Delhi.

Elaborating more on Obama`s maiden trip to India from November 6 to November 9, the officials told that US President would celebrate the festival of lights with children in Mumbai. However, Diwali celebrations would not commence until he pays homage to the victims of 26/11 on November 6 at the Taj Hotel -- which was the "centerpiece" of the 2008 terror attacks.

"The first event that the President will do will be a statement at the Taj Hotel, where he`s staying, to commemorate the Mumbai terrorist attacks," said Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communication Ben Rhodes.

He pointed out that India is a close counterterrorism partner of the US and it has shown "remarkable resilience" in responding to terrorism.

He said Obama desired to pay his respects to the victims as also to make brief remarks to a group of people connected to the attacks.

Obama will then visit the Gandhi Museum. It is notable that the US President considers Mahatma Gandhi as one of his inspirations.

Rhodes said it is important to note that the US and India are world`s largest democracies, a fact fundamental to their relationship and which makes it a "qualitatively different relationship" with shared interests and values.

"... The example of Gandhi is one that has inspired Americans, inspired African-Americans, including Dr (Martin Luther) King, and is very personally important to the president. So we`re looking forward to visiting the Gandhi Museum to underscore those shared experiences and shared values," Rhodes said.

Obama will then attend a business summit organised by the US-India Business Council, Rhodes said, adding that US was keen on discussing business opportunities in the huge dynamic and growing market of India and ways to deepend economic ties.
The President will participate in a roundtable with entrepreneurs, another one with some US CEOs, where challenges and opportunities of doing business in India will be discussed, before delivering a speech to the business summit.

However, during their hectic India tour, the first couple of the US would miss a tryst with Taj Mahal - a symbol of love.

However, a visit to the eternal monument of love by the US first couple in future has not been ruled out.

"The first couple would not be having a trip to the Taj Mahal this time", Ben Rhodes Deputy National Security Advisor said at a White House briefing on US President`s visit to India adding " but hopefully he would in future.”
"He(Obama) loves to see the Taj Mahal. He could at some point." he said.

"Certainly we wouldn’t rule out any visit (to the Taj Mahal)in the future. And, hopefully, we’ll be able to return to India. But right now, we’re focused on this upcoming trip," Rhodes said in response to a question.

Though President Obama and the first lady may skip the fable marble monument, renowned the world over as a symbol of romance, the couple will instead make a trip to the Lutyens, Humayun`s tomb considered a forerunner to the Taj.

"The first couple, however, would be visiting Humayun`s tomb," Rhodes said, describing it as one of the great cultural marvels in New Delhi.


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