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Mahatma Gandhi in, Golden Temple out

world Updated: Oct 28, 2010 13:26 IST

Agencies
Highlight Story

US President Barack Obama will keep his date with his personal hero Mahatma Gandhi and visit a museum and the Rajghat during his India trip but apparently is not going to visit the Golden Temple.

"Gandhi is one that has inspired Americans, inspired African Americans, including Dr King, and it's very personally important to the President," official sources said.

The White House has strongly refuted reports appearing the American and Indian media that US President Barack Obama apparently cancelled his planned trip to Golden Temple so he will not have to wear a head covering that could fan misconceptions he is a Muslim.

Obama will leave the United States on November 5, three days after congressional elections in which his Democrats fear a heavy defeat.

After arriving in India on November 6, Obama will deliver a statement at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in memory of those killed in the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008. Obama will also stay in the hotel.

"Taj, where the President is staying, was of course, a centrepiece of the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. So the President wanted to take time to pay his respects to the victims who lost their lives and to sign the guest book there, but also to make some brief remarks to an assembled group of people who are connected to those attacks," the sources said.

After visiting the Gandhi museum, Obama will take deliver a speech on the potential of US-India economic growth at a US-India Business Council summit, and hold separate roundtables with entrepreneurs and CEOs.

The next day, Obama will visit a Mumbai school to help celebrate Diwali, then hold a town hall meeting with local students, in which he will highlight joint projects on food security and democracy.

Later, in New Delhi, Obama will visit the tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun, before he and First Lady Michelle Obama dine with Singh and his wife.

"The president's had a very close personal relationship with Prime Minister Singh," said Rhodes, a deputy national security advisor.

"I think he's someone who has had a close intellectual connection with the president."

On Monday, November 8, Obama will visit the grave of Mahatma Gandi in New Delhi, before official talks and a press conference with Singh.

His address to the Indian parliament will take place before a state dinner, after he hosted Singh at his first state dinner as president last year.

Obama leaves India, for Jakarta, on November 8, then travels on to Japan for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit and the G20 summit in South Korea.

"We've visited multiple religious sites -- mosques, churches, synagogues -- on foreign travel. We'll do so on this trip, probably in Indonesia. So I think that the decision we made was driven by, again, the interests of time, how to best advance our common interests with India in these three days," Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communication, Ben Rhodes, said.

"Unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to get to every place we advanced," he told reporters when asked about news reports that Obama cancelled his planned trip to Amritsar and the Golden Temple.

"We make the decision about the schedule based on the best way to advance our goals for the trip. And with three days, we just thought that when we really crunched it, Mumbai and Delhi, with a very packed official programme, that the schedule we arrived at for those two cities filled up our time successfully," he said.

Obama would be travelling to India from November 6 to November 9 – his longest foreign stay in a country as the US President.

"It's a big country where we'd like to do a lot of things. It’s an extraordinary country and we can never do as many events as we’d like to do. We send advance teams to far more places than we’re ever going to visit," he said.

The Advance team had travelled to Amritsar.

"I think the schedule that we ended up is the schedule that best advances the purposes and interests of the trip. We've got a very packed three days in Mumbai and Delhi that speak to those priorities that reach out to the Indian people as well. So we arrived at the schedule we arrived at because we thought it was the best way to have a successful trip," Rhodes said.

According to a recent survey, an increasing number of Americans - nearly one in five - incorrectly believe that Obama is a Muslim.

The view that Obama is a Muslim is more widespread among his political opponents than among his backers, the Pew Research Center had said after releasing the results of its national survey.