US President Barack Obama, accompanied by his wife Michelle, arrived here on a three-day India visit – his second in four years – during which he will be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade Jan 26. Breaking with protocol, Prime Minister Narendra Modi received him at the VVIP terminal of the Indira Gandhi International Airport where both leaders greeted each other with a spontaneous hug .
As he alighted from his Air Force One presidential jet shortly after 9.45 a.m. local time, Modi, dressed in a beige Nehru jacket paired with a red shawl, welcomed Obama, wearing a dark suit, with a handshake and a hug. They kept clasping hands, chatting and joking like old friends.
The US president was accompanied by his wife Michelle, wearing a printed knee-length blue printed dress and teamed with a matching long jacket.
The arrival ceremony was surprisingly brief, the welcoming party made up only of Modi, minister-in-waiting Piyush Goyal and US ambassador Richard Verma.
The Obamas and Modi posed for the visual media and waved hands and the First Couple boarded The Beast, the presidential limousine, that was parked right across the red carpet for the drive to the ITC Maurya, where they will be staying during the visit.
Obama will later be accorded a red carpet ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, where he will be received by President Pranab Mukherjee and inspect a guard of honour.
Thereafter, he will proceed to Rajghat where he will lay a wreath at the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, and plant a sapling.
At 1 p.m., Obama is to attend a luncheon meeting with Modi at Hyderabad House.
The two sides will hold delegation-level talks at Hyderabad House and later address the media.
In the evening, Obama would call on President Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan and also attend a banquet hosted by the president.
Obama is here at the head of high-level delegation that includes Democratic House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and Ami Bera, co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans.
This is Obama’s second visit to India as president and the first time a US president will be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade.
He was to have flown down to Agra to see the Taj Mahal Tuesday, but that has been cancelled and he would be flying to Riyadh to condole the death of Saudi king Abdullah.