Mumbai: Stressing on the symbolism behind his decision to come to Mumbai as his first stop in India, US President Barack Obama Saturday paid his respects to the 26/11 martyrs at the Taj Mahal Hotel and said that India and US stand united in the fight against terror.
Obama and his wife Michelle, upon arrival in Mumbai at 12.50 pm, headed straight to the iconic sea-side hotel and viewed the 26/11 memorial and met the families of the victims, survivors.
A visibly sombre Obama, then addressed a small gathering by the Taj with the Gateway of India in the backdrop, where he said in a six minute speech, “There’s a reason for us beginning our visit in this historic city. Mumbai is a symbol of the energy and optimism that defines India. And ever since those horrific days two years ago Taj has been the symbol of strength and resilience of the people of India.”
Obama poignantly added, “Yes, we are here to give a clear message that India and US stand united," adding, “We will never forget awful images of the 26/11 attacks, the flames from Taj Hotel that lit up the skies on those four days of November, 2008.”
Calling the terrorists "murderers", he said they sneaked into Mumbai to kill "innocent civilians, Obama said he "will never forget the awful image of 26/11".
What was noteworthy was that he didn’t name Pakistan even once, he said, “Those who attacked Mumbai wanted to demoralize this city and this country but they failed," he said.
"The very next day, Mumbaikars came back to work... Within weeks, this hotel was welcoming guests from around the world."
Commending the co-existence of various faiths in India,
the US President said that terrorists had "wanted to pit
believers of different faiths against one another" because
diversity was Mumbai`s and India`s strength.
He said the Indian and US governments were working more closely than ever to keep people safe by sharing intelligence.
A total of 166 Indians and foreigners, Americans included, were massacred when 10 terrorists from Pakistan went on a killing spree in Mumbai for three long days from Nov 26.
Obama concluded on an emotional note by quoting India’s first prime minister Jawharlal Lal Nehru’s words on the death of Mahatma Gandhi: “We will never allow the torch of freedom to be blown out however high the wind or stormy the tempest.”
After his speech, Obama and his wife turned towards the
Arabian Sea from where the terrorists had come in boats to
launch the attacks. "There is the spirit of Gateway behind
us," he told Michelle pointing to the iconic Gateway of India
from the terrace of the hotel where the memorial service was
He wrote in the visitors` book: "The United States stands
in solidarity with all of Mumbai and India in working to
eradicate the scourge of terrorism. We offer our lasting
friendship to the Indian people."
After his brief address, Obama and his wife mingled with
the gathering, shaking hands and interacting with some of the
kin of the dead, including General Manager Karamveer Kang
whose wife and two sons were killed in the attack.
He was received at the hotel by Taj Group Chairman Ratan
- PTI inputs
He said he looked forward to deepening counter-terror cooperation "when I meet Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh in New Delhi".