By Arun Kumar
Washington, Jan 22:
Reflecting the economic focus of President Barack Obama’s trip to India as guest of honour at its Republic Day, top commerce officials, members of Congress and top American business leaders will accompany him. First Lady Michelle Obama will be with the president on the trip but their daughters Malia and Sasha are staying back because of their school schedule.
Noting that “this is an enormously important event for the Indian people,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said Tuesday Prime Minister Narendra Modi had taken the “unprecedented step” of inviting Obama as the first American President for the honour.
The invitation “sends a very important message to the world, as well as to the American and Indian people about our commitment to embrace the potential of this relationship,” he said.
Lawmakers on the trip include Democratic minority House leader Nancy Pelosi, Ami Bera, co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and India Americans, Joe Crowley, vice chair of the Democratic Caucus and Senator Mark Warner co-chair of the bipartisan Senate India Caucus.
Officials joining Obama on the trip include Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, US Trade Representative Michael Froman, and the President’s National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice and Counsellor to the President, John Podesta.
Landing in New Delhi early Sunday morning, Obama will begin his visit with a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan followed by a trip to Raj Ghat to pay tributes to father of the Indian Nation Mahatma Gandhi.
Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and their delegations will hold their bilateral meeting at Hyderabad House followed by lunch and press availability.
Topics of discussion will include business climate, trade and investment, climate change and energy, defence and security cooperation, regional global issues, Afghanistan and terrorism.
President Pranab Mukherjee will host a State dinner for the Obamas Sunday evening.
Monday morning, Jan 26, Obamas will watch the Republic Day parade with Mukherji and Modi and take part in other associated festivities.
That evening Obama and Modi will have a round table with business leaders followed by the first-ever joint address to the US and Indian business communities at a larger meeting
On Tuesday, the last day of the trip, Obama will give a public speech on “India and America: The future we can build together”.
Obamas will then visit the Taj Mahal in Agra before heading home. The first couple visited Mumbai and New Delhi on their last trip to India in 2011.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])