Nearly 450 Secret Service agents will accompany Barack Obama when he touches down in India this month, as the US President will sit out in the open for around two hours for the Republic Day ceremony, the longest duration in recent history, sources said.
The fact that Obama is prepared to remain outdoors for such an extended period highlights the importance he attaches to his India relations, said a security official. The US President accepted an invite from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be the chief guest at the annual parade in Delhi on January 26.
“The Secret Service never allows the President to sit out in the open for long durations,” said an Indian official, requesting anonymity. “Obama’s inaugurals in 2009 and 2013, when he took oath and addressed the nation from the steps of the US Capitol, may be the longest events of around 30 to 40 minutes when he was out in the open and that was in Washington.”
The US Secret Service, a federal law enforcement agency responsible for presidential protection, sent an advance team to India that is coordinating with officials here to put in place a foolproof security mechanism for the trip.
While Rajpath is likely to be locked down from Saturday, all government offices in the vicinity and near Raisina Hill may stay shut from January 23 till the end of the visit. Delhi will turn into a no-fly zone apart from dedicated routes earmarked for commercial air traffic while alternative routes are also being planned, sources said.
Indian and American satellites will also keep a close watch on the proceedings at Rajpath, said officials.
“The bullet-proof enclosure in which President Pranab Mukherjee and President Obama will sit is also being strengthened from the sides,” said the official. “I hope we will be able to convince the US security managers to allow Obama to travel in the Indian President’s limousine for arriving on Rajpath.”
Sources say Obama may land in Delhi early on January 25.