Manmohan gets Obama hug, stage set for talks (Lead)

November 7th, 2010 - 6:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama New Delhi, Nov 7 (IANS) US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrived in New Delhi Sunday afternoon on the second leg of their four-day India visit to a warm reception by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur.

Obama gave the prime minister a warm hug as he alighted. Michelle Obama, dressed in a powder blue ensemble, followed with a peck on the cheek for Manmohan Singh. Obama also gave a peck to Gursharan Kaur.

The chemistry was evident as the two leaders chatted amicably at the Air Force station at Palam. They continued to talk for several minutes as Manmohan Singh saw Obama to his stretch limousine.

The friendship between the Obamas and the Singhs was evident as both Gursharan Kaur and Michelle Obama firmly clasped hands as they walked the red carpet.

It’s not often that the prime minister deviates from protocol to receive visiting foreign leaders at the airport, but Manmohan Singh decided to personally welcome Obama given his special admiration for the man. In the last six years, he had done this in 2006 only for then US president George Bush with whom he struck a landmark nuclear deal and Saudi monarch King Abdullah.

Corporate and Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khursheed, minister-in-waiting who will attend on Obama during his visit to India, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, India’s Ambassador to the US Meera Shankar and senior officials of the external affairs ministry dealing with the US were also present at the airport. US Ambassador Timothy J. Roemer and senior officials of the US embassy also greeted Obama.

Accompanied by the US envoy, Obama headed to Roosevelt House, the residence of the US ambassador, to interact with the US embassy staff.

He will visit Humayun’s Tomb before going to the prime minister’s residence for a private dinner. Manmohan Singh and Obama are set to spend at least half-an-hour alone discussing critical issues before joining select guests at the dinner.

The one-on-one conversation between the two leaders is going to set the stage for formal talks Monday that are expected to unveil a template for the 21st century partnership between the world’s largest democracies.

This will be be the sixth meeting between the two leaders since Obama became president two years ago.

In Mumbai, where Obama spent 24 hours, he interacted and danced with students, unveiled $10 billion-worth of business deals with India and signalled the easing of high-tech exports.

During an interaction with students at St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai, Obama also flagged two key themes that will figure during the talks: Pakistan and Afghanistan. Admitting that Islamabad’s progress in terrorism was not quick enough, he said India has the biggest stake in a stable and prosperous Pakistan. He also lauded New Delhi’s role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

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