Obamas call off date at Taj

New Delhi: US President Barack Obama cancelled his much-publicised visit to Agra and would be leaving for Saudi Arabia from New Delhi on January 27.

While Obama has retained the programme of his address to a select gathering in Delhi on January 27, a visit to Agra to see the iconic Taj Mahal was cancelled as the President will leave from the capital to Saudi Arabia whose king Abdullah died on Thursday night.

“We adjusted the schedule in coordination with the Indian Government so that the President would be able to depart India following his speech on Tuesday to stop in Riyadh during the return trip to meet with King Salman and other Saudi officials and offer his condolences on behalf of the American people. The President regrets that he will be unable to visit Agra during this trip,” a statement from the White House said. 

After the White House informed the change in the programme of the President, all concerned security agencies and local administration were conveyed the same.

Obama’s cancellation comes as a major disappointment for India as elaborate preparations had been made to welcome the US President and the first lady. 

DIG Agra Lakshmi Singh told NewsMobile,” We were geared up for US President Obama’s visit to Agra on January 27. All security arrangements were in place. Then the US embassy informed us their trip was cancelled. We have not received any other information from the embassy.”

A team of 600 people were mobilised to clean Taj Mahal in Agra ahead of Obama’s Tuesday visit to the historical monument.

Apart from cleaning white lines on the roads, authorities were rounding up stray dogs, clearing cows from the streets, and had also ordered a lockdown around the complex.

He was scheduled to visit the city of Taj with his wife Michelle Obama on Tuesday next for which elaborate security arrangements were made. The US President, who will be arriving in India on Sunday for talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and be the chief guest at the Republic Day, will leave India on January 27. 

Obama will be accompanied by a sizable delegation that will include several top officials, as well as First Lady Michelle Obama, when he arrives in New Delhi on Sunday morning, the White House has said.

The US President will be joined in India by multiple members of his cabinet, influential business leaders and a host of US lawmakers, including Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader of the US House of Representatives during the trip.

(With inputs from PTI)

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