Obama may not ride Pranab's car on January 26

R-Day chief guest usually travels in President of India's limousine

Obama may not ride Pranab's car  on January 26

The US Secret Service is yet to give its clearance for President Barack Obama to travel in President Pranab Mukherjee’s limousine to the saluting base on Rajpath for the Republic Day parade.

Indian officials have told their US counterparts that as per tradition, the chief guest travels in the President of India’s limousine from Rashtrapati Bhavan down  Rajpath to the saluting base.

Also, the President will alight first followed by the chief guest, who will be later introduced to the prime minister.

But the US Secret Service has refused to allow Obama to travel in any other vehicle except his own, “the Beast.”

A custom-made vehicle by General Motors, the Beast is reported to cost more than $1 million.

It is fitted with military-grade armour, night vision cameras, an encrypted satellite phone and a sealed off interior that can keep Obama and his passengers safe from a possible chemical attack.

The sources said US officials have suggested two options: the two Presidents travel in their respective vehicles or both travel in the Beast that will sport the flags of the two countries.

But protocol requires that the vehicle carrying Mukherjee and Obama should bear the official emblem of the Government of India, the lion capital of Ashoka.

There are no issues when it comes to the US president’s movement elsewhere.
The Americans have cited the current security scenario for any departure from the standard practice of the US president to travel only in his own highly-secured car.

A Rashtrapati Bhavan official said the matter would have to be sorted by the security officials from both sides. “The President’s office has little role in this matter,” he said.

An official said that the advance liaison team of the US Secret Service will hold a final round of discussion on Friday when a clear picture might emerge.

By then, Obama’s trip to the Taj Mahal is also likely to be cleared.
For securing Rajpath and the Boat Club lawns, the US Secret Service will take up positions at vital locations, including nearby high-rise buildings.

The US officials may  have their helicopters hovering when Obama witnesses India’s military might and cultural diversity on display at the parade, sources said.

The Indian Air Force will also provide air cover to the parade area and the VVIPs on ground.
A bullet-proof shield is likely to come up in and around the VVIP enclosure.

Army sharpshooters and paramilitary commandos, in addition to the Delhi Police, will be deployed to ensure fool-proof security in and around Rajpath where the parade will be held.

Normally, whenever Obama travels, six to eight planes full of equipment, vehicles, choppers and more than a 1,000 personnel are deployed at his service.
The US warships and fighter planes are also kept on standby in the region.
DH News Service

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