Agra: So all the hard work to spruce up Agra for Barack Obama’s visit has come to a naught because he is cutting short his visit and proceeding to Saudi Arabia.
Initially, it was presumed that the extremely paranoid US Secret Service has decided not to stick its neck out by pandering to Obama and Michelle’s fervent desire to visit the Taj Mahal, the approach road to which was being scrubbed for the last ten days.
Now, it transpires that Agra Obama has cancelled plans to visit the Taj Mahal so that he can visit Riyadh. Not only is Saudi Arabia one of the US’ staunch allies in the region, It has an important role to play in the American scheme of things due to the ISIS insurgency in Syria and Iraq.
Though the transition in Riyadh has been smooth and on expected lines, there are concerns in the US about political stability in Saudi Arabia, which has played an important role in undermining Russia and Iran’s economy in the backdrop of the latest oil crisis. It has enabled the U.S. to weaken Putin’s position and use the devalued rouble as a leverage to dictate terms on Ukraine.
King Abdullah died on Friday after a short illness and has been succeeded by his 79-year-old half brother Salman.
The initial confirmation about cancellation of Obama’s trip came from Agra’s District Magistrate but is yet to be vouched for by the Ministry of External Affairs or the US government. It is understood that reports about terror cells being activated in UP also had not gone down well with the security agencies.
The cancellation of the Agra visit, which was scheduled for January 27, is a let down for the Indian government which was hoping against hope that there will be no hiccups in the high profile event, especially considering the international spotlight. The city of Agra, which was knee-deep in security men, can, of course, breathe easy.
“President Obama and the First Lady will travel to Riyadh on January 27 in order to pay respects to King Salman bin Abdulaziz and the family of the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.
The schedule will be adjusted accordingly in coordination with the Indian government so that the President would be able to depart India following his speech on Tuesday to stop in Riyadh during the return trip to meet with King Salman and other Saudi officials and offer his condolences on behalf of the American people.
The President regrets that he will be unable to visit Agra during this trip. The Vice President will remain in Washington,” a White House statement said.
The statement, issued in New Delhi by the US Embassy, also mentioned that the US Vice President was originally to have led a delegation to Saudi Arabia on the President’s behalf.
“As the President’s and Vice President’s travel schedules became clearer, we determined that the window when the Vice President would be on the ground in Riyadh coincided with the President’s departure from India,” it said, noting that accordingly Obama’s schedule was adjusted.
Meanwhile, after Americans informed about the change in the programme of the President, all concerned security agencies and local administration have been conveyed the same.