US President Barack Obama arrived on Sunday to a red-carpet welcome by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his unprecedented second visit during which the two sides are expected to push for operationalising the civil nuclear pact, firm up defense cooperation besides strengthening ties in areas like trade.
In a departure from protocol, Modi received Obama and his wife Michelle at the Palam airport after they disembarked from Air Force One at around 9:50 AM for the three-day high-profile visit. Modi and Obama shook hands and hugged each other reflecting their personal chemistry.
Later, the first US couple left in the armoured presidential limousine ‘Beast’ for the ITC Maurya hotel where they are staying.
Obama will be the first US President to grace the Republic Day parade as the Chief Guest tomorrow.
He will hold extensive talks with Modi on a number of strategic issues including ways to break the impasse in implementation of the civil nuclear deal and enhancing defence and economic ties. Both countries are working hard to have “excellent” outcomes from the visit of Obama.
The two countries will also deliberate on ways to boost trade and economic ties as well as the crucial issue of climate change.
A multi-layered security blanket was thrown around the city as Central Delhi turned into a virtual fortress with nearly 40,000 personnel drawn from Delhi Police and paramilitary forces guarding every nook and corner and over 15,000 CCTV cameras relaying every movement live to a central control room.
Minister-in-Waiting to Obama Piyush Goyal and top officials of Ministry of External Affairs were present at the airport to greet Obama.
Both countries are working hard to have “excellent” outcomes during the visit.
Officials said “progress has been made” on the nuclear issue and India was looking forward to “effectively” work with the US in the “extremely important” field.
The Indian liability law holds the suppliers directly liable in case of a nuclear accident while countries like France and the US have asked India to follow global norms under which the primary liability is with the operator.
Since all the nuclear power plants in the country are run by the government-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd, following international norms will mean the government would have to pay the damages in case of an accident.
Earlier this week, American Ambassador Richard Verma had noted that bilateral trade had grown fivefold to USD 100 billion in the past decade, and added that, “We believe there is no reason it can’t grow another five-fold, to USD 500 billion by 2020.”
Climate change issue is also expected to figure prominently in talks between Modi and Obama.
Both Obama and Modi are also likely to discuss issues relating to India’s neighbourhood as well as global issues.
Curtailing his India-visit, Obama had decided to skip a trip to Agra to see iconic Taj Mahal to be able to fly directly from New Delhi to Saudi Arabia following the death of King Abdullah.
An unprecedented security arrangement, comprising Delhi Police and para-military forces, has been put in place in the city.
Snipers of Delhi Police and National Security Guards occupied all high-rise buildings on the routes which Obama will be travelling.
Central Delhi has turned into a virtual fortress with security agencies partly or completely shutting down nearly 71 buildings. Even bonafide citizens of this area, including MPs and officers of the Armed Forces, have been either issued special passes or have to establish their identities to enter the zone.
A joint team of the US Secret Services and sleuths of central security agencies were monitoring specially established control rooms which are connected to freshly installed CCTVs for the VVIP.