Mumbai readies for Obama, details still under wraps | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Mumbai readies for Obama, details still under wraps

mumbai Updated: Oct 22, 2010 23:06 IST

Though India's commercial capital is being prepared for the much-anticipated visit by US President Barack Obama early next month, the details of his two-day programme are yet to be finalised.

Speaking to media persons here Friday afternoon, Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said the presidential tour programme "is not yet finalised."

"At this stage, I cannot say whether any Maharashtra-specific agreements would be signed between India and the US during the trip. If it happens, I shall inform you," he said.

Regarding the security preparedness for President Obama, Chavan said that since he is the head of a state, he will be accorded all due security befitting his position.

Meanwhile, a detailed security plan has been chalked out for the presidential visit following a series of meetings held in the past few days between the Mumbai Police and the Home Ministry.

Though advance teams of security experts form the US have also visited Mumbai and held discussions with top officials, the official itinerary of the US president remains shrouded in secrecy.

As per tentative indications, President Obama is expected to land at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport here sometime Nov 5, which happens to be Diwali, and leave for New Delhi Nov 6.

Soon after arrival in Mumbai, he is likely to take the Western Express Highway to Bandra, go over the landmark Rajiv Gandhi Bandra-Worli Sea Link and then proceed to Colaba in south Mumbai.

The road from the airport to the Hotel Taj is being given a facelift by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to ensure that everything is shining for the Presidential trip.

It is still not known what engagements Obama will keep in Mumbai, who will call on him or what meetings he will attend and whether he will go around some of the sites targeted during the Nov 26-29, 2008 Mumbai terror attack.

"The official schedule of the President is yet to be finalised, we are working on it," was the standard reply of sources in the state intelligence and Maharashtra government's protocol department, besides the US consulate officials here.

The highlight of the trip is the likely overnight halt by President Obama at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel opposite the Gateway of India.

It was one of the sites targeted by 10 Pakistani gunmen during the brutal terror attack, which left 166 dead and over 300 injured.

In July 2009, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had also stayed in the same hotel, endearing herself to the people of the city.

President Obama's visit to Mumbai during November is also considered diplomatically significant since the month marks the second anniversary of the 26/11 terror attacks in which some US nationals were among those gunned down.

His stay at the Taj - and earlier by Clinton - is intended to send a clear message that terrorism would not be tolerated by the present US administration.