Obama (or his advisors) are too scared to visit the Taj Mahal?

Unlike during Bill Clinton’s visit to Agra and the Taj Mahal in 1997, when Agra was turned into a ghost town, this time the Indian government has declined to have the entire city vacated of people and animals just so that Barack and Michelle Obama can visit. It would seem that the security team of the “most powerful person in the world” relies so heavily on only allowing Obama to move into empty spaces that his visit to the Taj Mahal, planned for Tuesday 27th January, has been reportedly cancelled! The US President is not up to making a visit that is made by around 12,000 visitors every day (on average), by around 4 million every year and by up to 300,000 during a long holiday weekend.

It occurs to me that every new security measure introduced – whether for the “ordinary man” or for Barack Obama – is a victory for the terrorists. The bottom line is that if Barack Obama does not visit the Taj Mahal on Tuesday it will be because he (and/or his advisors) were too scared to do so. You could say that they have been well and truly “terrorised”Airport security is primarily driven by the lobby for the manufacturers of security and scanning equipment. They have enjoyed a bonanza since 9/11. It is fairly obvious that the supposed benefits for passengers (which can never be demonstrated) are dwarfed by the benefits to the manufacturers.

The Hindu:

U.S. President Barack Obama is believed to have cancelled the Agra leg of his India visit. The President, who will be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations, was scheduled to visit the Taj Mahal with his wife, Michelle, on January 27.

Official confirmation of the cancellation of the Agra leg of his tour is still awaited. “It’s possible that he might leave India earlier,” a government source said, adding that no reason had been given for the cancellation of the Agra visit.

Obama’s security team and the Indian government have been at odds over his 3 day visit.

FirstPostAs the date of the United States President Barack Obama’s India visit nears, disagreement between the security agencies of US and India is getting sharper. ..

…… a number of special requests made by the US secret service to the Indian security agencies and the Indian government have been turned down. Sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of External Affairs in India confirmed that some of the demands made by the secret service are rather unrealistic.

Here are five areas that the US agencies are disappointed with the Indian security arrangements:

  1. Extended outdoor time

The American president has never been on an outdoor event for more than 45 minutes. However, the Republic Day celebrations in Delhi last for almost two hours. The secret service had requested Indian agencies to either cut short the event or ensure that Obama will not be attending the event for more than 45 minutes.

But the Indian government has refused to oblige, according to a source in the Home ministry. To make things worse between the agencies, the number of tableaux participating in the parade could be increased from 20 to 25. It means that the event may end up extending the function further, beyond the usual two hours. This has not gone down well with the US Secret Service, but the Indian government too is not willing to budge.

  1. No Fly zone over NDMC area

The US security agencies had earlier asked the Indian government to clear airspace over Delhi on January 25 and 26, according to sources in the MHA. In this case too Indian agencies refused to oblige. Following this, it was decided that commercial planes will be kept clear of the airspace over the New Delhi Municipal Corporation area during the event.

However, the US Secret Service had more recently asked the government for a five-kilometre radius no-fly zone (both commercial and the Indian Air Force) imposed around Rajpath during the event. That has also been turned down by the government as it is tradition for the Indian Air Force to do a flypast on Republic Day.

  1. Airspace security over Yamuna Expressway

The Americans are also unhappy about the fact that while the airspace over the 165-kilometre long Yamuna Expressway to Agra, has not been declared a no-fly zone for commercial aircraft while the US President’s convoy is travelling on it. We have restricted the highway from public use for as long as the US President’s convoy is travelling through it. They have two F-35 raptors doing surveillance of the sky and will be flying on top of the President’s convoy. In addition to that, there are a number of security measures taken to ensure that any threat is detected beforehand. I don’t see why they should be upset,” an official at the Ministry of Home Affairs said.

  1. Indian anti-terrorist squad unsatisfactory

Sources also revealed that the US secret service officials said that the Indian commandoes gave unsatisfactory results in the aptitude test on security along with surprise checks conducted by the agency. As a result, the Central Intelligence Agency is bringing their Concealed Anti-Terrorists (CAT) squads to the national capital.

  1. Agra visit

Former US President Bill Clinton called Agra a ‘ghost town’ after his visit to the city on March 20, 2000. But that’s because city was cleared of people for his security. The US Secret Service wanted the same measure extended to President Obama, but the Indian agencies have denied that request as well.

Obama, during his earlier trip had reportedly skipped visiting the Taj due to the fact that the city did not pass the security scanner. “This time around we had issued directions for security arrangements to the state government way in advance,” a senior administrative official at the Ministry of External Affairs said. “But, we want to avoid clearing the city completely. It is an inconvenience for the general public and we wish to maintain an ‘organic’ look of the city rather than it feeling like a deserted town,” he added.

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