- City officials in New Delhi have hired men to fire slingshots at monkeys to scare them away
- In Hindu culture, they represent the god Hanuman, so cannot be hurt no matter their public nuisance
- The measures have been put in place throughout President Obama’s state visit which has been cut short
- He will skip a visit to the Taj Mahal so he can go and meet the new Saudi Arabian King Salman
City officials in New Delhi have hired men to fire slingshots at monkeys in the streets – so they don’t get in President Obama’s way during his state visit.
The animals usually hang from trees and walk among passing cars in the city. However, it’s unlikely the stray creatures were the biggest concern of the US president on the second day of his Indian state trip as he and wife Michelle arrived at India’s Republic Day celebrations in the pouring rain.
The crowd erupted in cheers as Obama, along with the first lady, emerged from his armored limousine and took his place on the rain-soaked parade route in the capital of New Delhi.
President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Prime Minister Nodi and President Mukherjee waving to the crowd as the Republic Day parade draws to a close in New Delhi.
A military marching band riding camels participates in the rain-soaked Republic Day parade in New Delhi, watched by President Obama and Prime Minister Nodi.
Indian Border Security Force motorcycle specialists performing in the rain during the Republic Day parade
Prevention: Two officials were forced to hold up umbrellas as the celebrations began. The President’s historic trip has been cut short so he can travel to Saudi Arabia and meet the new king
Obama took in a grand display of Indian military hardware, marching bands and elaborately dressed camels, becoming the first American leader to be honored as chief guest at India’s annual Republic Day festivities.
He spent about two hours on an outdoor viewing platform, an unusual amount of time given Secret Service security concerns.
Obama nodded in approval as Indian tanks and rocket launchers, some of them Russian-made, rolled down the parade route and air force jets sped by overhead.
‘It’s a great honor,’ Obama said when reporters asked for his thoughts on attending Republic Day. ‘We are so grateful for the extraordinary hospitality.’
The parade was the centerpiece of Obama’s three-day visit to India, which is aimed at strengthening a relationship between the world’s largest democracies that has at times been fraught with tension and suspicion.
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Braving the rain: President Obama and First Lady Michelle arrive in heavy downpours to make the Republic Day parade in New Delhi
Drenched: Obama holds an umbrella next to India’s Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari (right) before the start of the Republic Day parade in New Delhi
Obstacle: Men have been hired to fire slingshots at the monkeys that have become a nuisance on the streets of New Delhi. They cannot be harmed because in Hindu culture, they represent the god Hanuman
Indian authorities have been preparing for the US president’s visit by curbing the activities of India’s animals.
In Hindu culture, monkeys are considered friends as they represent the god Hanuman and therefore cannot be harmed. The slingshots are just a way of trying to get them to move on. They have become a nuisance in the city because of the shrinking forests.
One of those employed to tackle the problem told ABC News that his main aim is for one of the creatures not to slip into the President’s bed.
Authorities have even tried to stash food in a forested area away from the city, in a bid to draw the monkeys away from the city streets and residential areas.
In addition, cow catchers were called in to round up stray cattle and police escorted the animals — considered holy — away from the streets.
The Commander-in-Chief’s arrival on Sunday morning in New Delhi marked the first time an American president has visited India twice during his years in office.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, wearing a gold kurta, greeted Obama at the foot of Air Force One and enveloped him in a huge embrace. Obama returned the gesture, patting the prime minister on the back several times.
Obama’s limousine later was escorted through a metal gate and into the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, India’s presidential palace, by a cavalry regiment of the Indian army. He was welcomed with a booming 21-gun salute and inspected an honor guard.
Paying respects: The President gestures a traditional greeting at the memorial during the first full day of his three-day state visit to India
Friend of India: Mr Obama is the first American to visit India twice during his administration. Above, the president inspects an honor guard at the Indian Presidential Palace in new Delhi
Welcome: The president was greeted at India’s presidential palace by a 21-gun salute from the honor guard. Mr Obama pictured above with Prime MInister Narendra Modi, left
Closer: U.S.-India relations have been strained in recent years, but have warmed considerably since Mr Modi was elected into office
President Barack Obama, right, first lady Michelle Obama and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, left, stand during the US National Anthem before a receiving line at the State Dinner at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the presidential palace, in New Delhi
While U.S.-India relations have been strained in recent years, those tensions have cooled thanks to the election of Mr Modi who has an easy rapport with the president.
‘Your election and your strong personal commitment to the US-India relationship gives us an opportunity to further energize these efforts,’ the president said Sunday.
‘Barack and I have formed a bond, a friendship,’ Mr Modi added. ‘We can laugh and joke and talk easily on the phone. The chemistry that has brought Barack and me closer has also brought Washington and Delhi closer.’
Hug: Mr Obama and Mr Modi have an easy rapport, which has strengthened the relationship between their two countries. The two pictured hugging before a joint press conference
Historical: Above, Mr Obama gives Mr Modi a copy of a 1950 telegram that Sec of State Dean Acheson sent to India’s constitutional assembly, congratulating them on their new government
Progress: The President and Mr Modi quickly got to work resolving a long-standing issue on India’s civil nuclear program. The U.S. promised to help the country develop a nuclear energy program in 2008, but it has made no progress since then due to concerns about liability. Above, the two presidents sit for tea after taking a walk through the gardens of Hyderabad House
Chatting: Mr Obama addressed conflicts in eastern Ukraine and Yemen. The president and Prime MInister Modi pictured walking through the gardens of Hyderabad House
The two leaders put that chemistry to work on Sunday, quickly coming to a breakthrough agreement over India’s civil nuclear program.
In 2008, the U.S. and India decided to partner together to foster the Asian country’s nuclear energy program, but little progress has been made over American fears over India’s strict liability laws.
Though it’s uncertain how Mr Obama and Mr Modi resolved this issue, it’s believed that India has decided to set up an insurance pool to guard companies that build reactors.
‘Today we achieved a breakthrough understanding on two issues that were holding up our ability to advance our civil nuclear cooperation and we are committed to moving towards full implementation,’ Mr Obama said at a joint press conference in New Dehli.
‘I am pleased that six years after we signed our bilateral agreement, we are moving towards commercial cooperation, consistent with our laws (and) international legal obligations,’ Prime Minister Modi added.
Embrace: President Barack Obama hugs India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he arrives at Air Force Station Palam in New Delhi ahead of a three-day state visit
Also during the press conference, Mr Obama addressed unrest in the region including the continued violence in eastern Ukraine and the collapse of Yemen’s government this week.
The president blamed Russia for the unrest in Ukraine, and said that he is working to resolve the situation without a military conflict.
As for Yemen, the president said that though the U.S.-backed president has resigned and a Shi’ite group taken power, counter-terrorism efforts in the country have not been stopped. The U.S. has been carrying out drone missions in the Arab Penninsula country for some time, focusing on the outlaw desert regions where terrorist groups have been hiding and training.
‘We continue to go after high-value targets inside of Yemen and we will continue to maintain the pressure which we require to keep the American people safe,’ he said.
‘What we have shown is that we can maintain the kind of pressure on these terrorist networks even in these kind of difficult environments,’ he said.
Security: Indian security officers clear the area before Mr Obama arrives to pay tribute at Rajghat, the site where Indian independence icon Mahatma Gandhi was cremated. Security has been increased for the president’s attendance at the Republic Day festivities
Presidential planter: Mr Obama plants a tree at the Raj Ghat Mahatma Gandhi Memorial in New Dehli, India
Ahead of the big day of celebration, Obama walked in his socks into a walled courtyard to lay a large white wreath at the site where Indian independence icon Mahatma Gandhi was cremated. He then shoveled dirt and poured a pitcher of water around a young tree planted in his honor at the memorial.
But in a move likely to take some of the symbolic shine off Obama’s trip, the White House announced shortly before his departure from Washington that the president was canceling plans to visit the Taj Mahal in Agra.
The president and first lady had planned to tour the famed white marble monument of love on Tuesday, but instead the Obamas will go to Saudi Arabia to pay respects to the royal family following the death of King Abdullah.
‘The president regrets that he will be unable to visit Agra during this trip,’ White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
Residents in Agra have been cleaning up the monument for weeks, removing two tons of trash from the area in two days, washing spit stains from the pavement and directing hundreds of sacred cows out of the road.
Vice President Biden was originally planned to head the American contingent to Saudi Arabia, but will not be staying back home in the U.S. while the president takes over.
The last minute change of plans to honor the Saudis comes just weeks after the president was criticized for missing an anti-terrorism march in Paris.
ALL THAT WORK FOR NOTHING! WORKERS HAVE BEEN CLEANING THE TAJ MAHAL FOR WEEKS, ONLY FOR PRESIDENT TO CANCEL TRIP TO VISIT SAUDI ARABIA
President Obama’s last minute decision to skip a trip to the Taj Mahal in order to meet with the Saudi Arabian royal family has come as a disappointment to Agra locals who have been tirelessly cleaning up the monument in recent weeks in order to impress the American leader.
An army of 600 cleaners were employed to clean up the city for the visit, but their hard work has now gone to waste.
The workers have cleaned spit stains from the pavement, removed trash from a polluted river and rounded up stray animals for less than $5 U.S. dollars a day.
Last week, AFP wrote a story about the beautification efforts ahead of the Obama’s planned visit.
An Indian worker cleans a water pond inside the grounds of the Taj Mahal on January 21 in preparation for a visit from President Barack Obama. Mr Obama has since cancelled the trip to visit Saudi Arabia’s royal family instead
Many residents appeared happy to do the tough work, since it meant showing off one of their national treasures to Mr Obama.
‘If everything is clean then he will be impressed,’ a worked named Ramheet said as he scrubbed a road near the monument on his knees.
Apart from cleaning white lines on the roads, authorities also rounded up stray dogs and cleared cows from the streets.
‘There are a lot of spit stains and such that need to be washed away. The streets need to be spick and span,’ said India’s former chief archaeologist KK Mohammed, who has guided world leaders around the white marbled mausoleum.
‘You cannot have a VVVIP of the world come to the Taj Mahal and let him see that,’ Mohammed said.
The spruce-up, which comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself launched a national clean-up campaign last October, reflects a wider determination to ensure the Obamas get to see India at its finest.
In the capital Delhi, workers have been coating buildings and bollards with fresh paint ahead of the Obamas’ attendance at a military parade on Monday.
An army of 600 workers were employed to clean up the city before Mr Obama visited, but that work has now gone to waste. On the left, a worked scrubs the streets of Agra, while on the right, another worker rounds up stray dogs
But the frenzy was more intense in Agra, no stranger to hosting heads of state or royalty such as Britain’s late Princess Diana.
Pradeep Bhatnagar, chairman of the Taj Trapezium Zone, a buffer region around the monument, said ongoing construction had been halted for 10 days to allow dust to settle before the guests arrive.
Suresh Chand, who is in charge of the clean-up, said stray dogs -a common sight in any Indian city – have been rounded up, and more than two tonnes of rubbish pulled from the nearby polluted Yamuna river in just two days.
Another official said cows and buffaloes roaming the streets also ‘would have to go’.
‘When a guest comes to our house then we have to do something better than the normal,’ said Chand, Agra municipal council’s chief engineer.
Inside the Taj complex, a dozen barefoot women trimmed lawn edges with trowels.
‘Obama, Obama,’ one lady, who has worked at the Taj for more than two decades and earns 100 rupees a day, said with a grin.
DailyMail.com reporter, AFP
It appeared unlikely that Obama’s visit would result in major policy breakthroughs on the issues that will dominate his agenda with Modi. But the mere fact that the talks were happening was being viewed as a sign of progress given the recent tensions that have marred relations between the U.S. and India.
The relationship hit rock bottom in 2013 when Indian Deputy Consul General Devyani Khobragade was arrested and strip-searched in New York over allegations that she lied on visa forms to bring her maid to the U.S. while paying her a pittance. Her treatment caused outrage in New Delhi and India retaliated against U.S. diplomats.
Ties between the U.S. and India have been steadily improving since Modi took office last May. He and Obama met for the first time late last year in Washington, and officials from both countries say they quickly developed an easy chemistry.
That came as something of a surprise to regional analysts given Modi’s difficult history with the U.S. He was denied a visa to the U.S. in 2005, three years after religious riots killed more than 1,000 Muslims in the Indian state where he was the top elected official.
‘I think Modi surprised everyone by, with very little hesitation, embracing the United States,’ said Milan Vaishnav, a South Asia expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
‘To give credit where credit is due, the Obama administration stepped in very quickly after his election to signal that he was willing to do business.’
Obama also had a good rapport with former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. However, U.S. officials expressed some frustration that their personal warmth never translated into policy breakthroughs.
High on Obama’s agenda with Modi is progress on getting heavily polluted India to agree to curb carbon emissions. White House officials hope the surprise climate agreement the U.S. struck with China in November might spur India to take similar steps, though that’s unlikely to happen during Obama’s visit.
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