New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel is rapidly slipping off New Delhi’s radar in connection with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming US trip.
Spooked by US President Barack Obama’s decision to not stay at the Waldorf Astoria in the wake of its acquisition by a Chinese insurance firm last year, the government is now exploring other options, including The Pierre, the US flagship of the Taj Hotels on New York’s Fifth Avenue overlooking Central Park. Modi, however, continues to be booked at the Waldorf Astoria for the New York leg of his US trip. He arrives in New York on September 23 for the UN General Assembly and flies back on September 28, with two days spent on the West Coast.
Obama decided to shift to the Korean-owned New York Palace Hotel from the Waldorf Astoria over sensitivities related to cyber-security. The Waldorf Astoria is also hosting Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and China President Xi Jinping.
Top government and Indian Hotel Company (IHC) officials on condition of anonymity confirmed the likely change in plans, saying the Modi government has been in touch with the Taj Group for the past couple of days to check out room availability at the iconic hotel which has 140 guest rooms and 49 suites.
Modi had stayed at the New York Palace Hotel during the UNGA last year. “The room requirement and availability apart from security issues are being discussed but the final decision is still to be taken,” said a source in New York.
Modi has preferred to stay in Indian-owned properties during recent visits to Dubai, Sri Lanka and Mauritius. The PM avoided the opulent Burj Al Arab option in Dubai and stayed at The Oberoi; he stayed at a Taj Group property in Sri Lanka and at an Oberoi Group property in Mauritius.
Modi will address the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York on September 25, but will skip the UNGA address in favour of external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj. “The decision was quite evident as Prime Minister Modi personally wrote to all 193 heads of state on his vision of future UN in an 1,800-word letter on July 4. The letter was much appreciated with many heads of state replying,” said a senior official. This letter was exclusively published by The Hindustan Times.
Official sources said Modi was coming back to New York on September 28 only to attend the inaugural session but more importantly to bilaterally meet Obama. He is open to meeting Sharif in case it works to the convenience of both sides, they added.