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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Dec 2014

Chose to stay at the Taj to send message, says Obama

Ketaki Ghoge, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, November 06, 2010
First Published: 14:46 IST(6/11/2010) | Last Updated: 00:44 IST(7/11/2010)

Standing on the terrace of the Taj Mahal hotel, the epicenter of the 26/11 terror attacks, US President Barack Obama — in his seven-minute speech, made before a motley crowd including a slain taxi driver's wife, a cleaner at the Trident hotel and Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata — said he "absolutely" wanted to send a message by choosing Mumbai and the Taj as his first stop on his three-day visit to India.

"Yes, we visit here to send a very clear message that in our determination to give our people a future of security and prosperity, the United States and India stand united," Obama said, with first lady Michelle Obama by his side.

But even as he hinted at deepening counter-terrorism cooperation at his meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Obama avoided going into specifics. There was also no mention of Pakistan or the forces behind such attacks.

The Taj, the President said, was a symbol of strength and resilience while Mumbai stood as a symbol of "incredible energy and optimism" that defines the India of the 21st century.

Minutes before his public address, the Obamas paid tribute to the victims of the 2008 attacks at the memorial in the heritage wing of the Taj. 

The 49-year-old American President, the first foreign head of state to be a guest of the Taj hotel post-26/11, hailed the resilience of Mumbaikars and the spirit of the city in bouncing back after "the savagery of the attackers".

He also said the terror strike had brought the two countries closer; just as Indians had lost their lives in 9/11, Americans had been victims of 26/11. The two governments are now working closer than ever "sharing intelligence, preventing more attacks and demanding that the perpetrators be brought to justice".

Instead, he evoked the common aspirations of the people of the two countries to lead a "life of dignity and opportunity" and the common democratic values shared by US and India.

Quoting Jawaharlal Nehru's words on the day that Mahatma Gandhi died - "We shall never allow that torch of freedom to be blown out, however high the wind or stormy the tempest" - Obama said that the America people believed that just as people in India did.


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