NEW DELHI: President Barack Obama on Monday took in a grand display of Indian Military hardware, marching bands and elaborately dressed camels, becoming the first American leader to be honored as chief guest at India’s annual Republic Day festivities.
The crowd erupted in cheers as Obama, along with first lady Michelle Obama, emerged from his armored limousine and took his place on the rain-soaked parade route in the capital of New Delhi. The parade was the centerpiece of Obama’s three-day visit to India, which is aimed at strengthening a relationship between the world’s largest democracies that has at times been fraught with tension and suspicion.
Obama’s attendance at the Republic Day celebrations was unlike any other event he has participated in during his overseas travel as president. He spent about two hours on an outdoor viewing platform, an unusual amount of time given Secret Service security concerns.
Republic Day marks the anniversary of India’s democratic constitution taking force in 1950. Beyond the show of military power, the parade included ornate floats highlighting India’s cultural diversity. Obama gave a thumbs-up to the acrobatic balancing act of several groups of men on motorbikes while Mrs. Obama smiled broadly at dance performance by young children.
Following the parade, the Obamas was to attend a reception along with dignitaries at Rashtrapati Bhawan, the sprawling presidential palace.
Obama said Modi’s “strong personal commitment to the US-India relationship gives us an opportunity to further energize these efforts.” And the Indian leader declared that “the chemistry that has brought Barack and me closer has also brought Washington and Delhi closer.”
Obama was to close the visit Tuesday with a speech to young people. He had planned to tour the Taj Mahal, India’s famed white marble monument of love, but scrapped that stop and instead will go to Saudi Arabia to pay respects to the royal family following King Abdullah’s death
Source: Associated Press