Why US Presidents no longer stay at Rashtrapati Bhavan

Why US Presidents no longer stay at Rashtrapati Bhavan

Rashtrapati Bhavan. (Photo: Official website)

United States President Donald Trump, accompanied by his wife Melania Trump, is scheduled to pay his maiden visit to India on Feb. 24 and 25. 

The final itinerary for the visit is not known but a tentative plan suggests that President Trump and the First Lady are unlikely to stay at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi. The American President is likely to stay at the Oberoi Amarvilas Hotel in Agra while he visits the Taj Mahal, according to multiple media reports. 

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Conventionally, Presidents from other countries who visit India stay at the Rashtrapati Bhavan — the magnificent presidential palace sitting atop Raisina Hill in the centre of Delhi. In 1959, former President Dwight Eisenhower, who was the first US President to visit India, stayed at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Richard Nixon, the second US president to visit India, and US President Jimmy Carter both stayed at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. 

Trump, however, will not be the first US President to skip a stay at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, which was built in the early 20th century and designed by British architect Edwin Lutyens.

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In 2015, when the then US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle came to attend India’s 66th Republic Day celebrations, they stayed at the Maurya Sheraton, one of Delhi’s top hotels. Former French President Jacques Chirac was one of the first foreign leaders to depart from the tradition and expressed his desire to stay in a hotel in 1998.

The change in the trend and a move to hotels during international visits is mainly due to security considerations. When a President visits another country, there is a large delegation that accompanies him or her. And the entire area of the accommodation needs to be secured. It seems to be an easier task to secure a hotel than trying to secure the Rashtrapati Bhavan — a 200,000 sq ft stone mansion set on a 33-acre estate.

On a lighter note, a hotel stay may provide a more comfortable experience with ease of movement for the visiting leader. And at a hotel, the leader is likely to enjoy an informal atmosphere that may include a relaxing swim or a drink at the bar.

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