Mumbai / New Delhi, Nov 7: US President Barack Obama today arrived here on the second leg of his three-day visit to India and was personally received by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who set aside protocol to welcome the guest.
The Air Force One carrying Obama, his wife Michelle and the official delegation 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.
US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle dined with PM Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur at a private do at the latter’s residence here on Sunday night.
The first couple reached 7, Race Course Road at the scheduled time of 7 pm for a dinner party where some 80 guests have been invited.
Before the dinner began, PM Singh held a one-on-one discussion with President Obama for at least 15-20 minutes. Critical issues like terrorism emanating from Pakistan, proliferation and freedom of choice in defence deals, India’s inclusion in international proliferation regimes etc are reported to have been discussed.
These are also the issues which will be on the table on Monday when the two sides hold meetings. As Singh and Obama met separately, Michelle and Kaur too had a meeting before all four of them joined the guests for dinner.
The menu at dinner is mostly going to be a vegetarian affair.
The guests attending the dinner include Aamir Khan, Javed Akhtar & his wife Shabana Azmi, Oscar winner AR Rahman, Ratan Tata among other luminaries from business and cultural fields. 80 people have been invited.
The Obamas visited Mughal heritage monument Humayun’s Tomb where they soaked into the history of India. They met with some children of workers there as well and gave them gifts. Obama praised the presence of historical monuments right in the middle of modern Delhi.
Mumbai, Nov 7: It was a swinging start to the day for the Obamas on Sunday with both the president and his wife shaking a leg with children at the Holy Name School here as a Marathi folk tune played in the background.
The couple arrived separately at the venue, in a quiet bylane in Colaba, a hub of foreigners and close to the Leopold Cafe, which was targeted during the Nov 26, 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
The US first couple - the president in shirtsleeves and the first lady in a black and white dress with a hot pink shrug - moved around, shaking hands with the children and stopping to exchange some words.
Michelle Obama gamely agreed when the children asked her to join them, swinging her hips to the catchy tune and quickly catching on as the steps were taught to her. The president was not to far behind either, and happily got up to join the fun, waving his arms and swinging along with the rest.
Obama had greeted the students with a namaste, the traditional Indian greeting with palms joined, and lit a traditional lamp to flag off the function. Earlier, Michelle Obama had also seen an exhibition of paintings and rangolis put up by the students.
In his first comments on Pakistan, on this four-day India trip, US President Barack Obama said, "Pakistan is a strategically important country, not just for America, but for the world." Obama was responding to a question from a student at the St Xavier’s College in Mumbai.
The US President said Washington would not mediate in the dialogue between India and Pakistan and it was up to the two South Asian neighbours to mend fences. "India and Pakistan can prosper and live side by side. This can happen and this should be the ultimate goal. The US can be a partner but cannot impose this process. India and Pakistan have to arrive at an understanding," said Obama. "My hope is that in time, trust develops between India and Pakistan and dialogue on less controversial issues and building up to more controversial issues."
Obama said the biggest stakeholder in a ’stable and prosperous’ Pakistan is India. He added, "If Pakistan is unstable, that’s bad for India. If it’s good and prosperous, that’s good, because India is on the move. Don’t want the distraction of security in your region."
Noting that there are going to be some elements in Pakistan that are affiliated with Taliban, Al-Qaida and LeT, Obama said they are "irreconcilable" and there needs to be a military response to those who perpetrate violence like they did in Mumbai and New York in a "significant, ongoing" way. US will work with Islamabad to reject extremism which is a "cancer" which threatens to engulf it. The US President said, "Pakistan understands the threats from extremism. They now understand the threats within their borders. The progress is not as quick as we’d like."