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Obama’s R-Day visit: US Prez Obama leaves for three-day landmark trip to India

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Washington (Jan. 24, 2015): US President Barack Obama Saturday embarked on his highly anticipated three-day landmark trip to India during which the two countries will strive to make progress on climate change, defence and economic cooperation.

Obama left by Air Force One, the presidential aircraft, from the Andrews Air Force Base.

The President is accompanied by a sizeable delegation that will include several top officials, as well as First Lady Michelle Obama. Obama is travelling to India at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Presidential aircraft will have a brief refuelling halt at Ramstein in Germany and will touch down in Delhi at 10 am on Sunday at Air Force Station, Palam.

The President, who is making his second visit to India, will be joined there by multiple members of his Cabinet, influential business leaders and a host of US lawmakers, including Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader of the US House of Representatives.

On his arrival, Obama will be accorded a ceremonial welcome at about 12 noon at the majestic Rashtrapati Bhawan by President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Thereafter, he will pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi at the Rajghat and participate in a tree planting event there.

Obama will then join Modi for a restricted working lunch at the Hyderabad House and participate in a "walk and talk" with the Indian Prime Minister there, the White House said.

The two leaders will then have an expanded delegation level meeting, which is expected to last for about an hour.

Later in the evening, Obama is scheduled to meet US embassy personnel and families at ITC Maurya Hotel. He will then drive down to Rashtrapati Bhawan to attend the state banquet hosted by President Mukherjee.

On January 26, Obama will participate in the Republic Day celebration as the chief guest along with the First Lady. Later, the Obamas will attend a 'At Home' reception hosted by President Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhawan.

In the afternoon, Obama and Modi will participate in a CEO forum roundtable and make remarks at a US-India Business Summit.

On January 27 morning, the US President will give an address at Siri Fort Auditorium and then leave for Saudi Arabia. He has cancelled his much-publicised visit to Agra to see the Taj Mahal.

Obama will travel to Riyadh in order to pay respects to King Salman bin Abdulaziz and the family of the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.

On the eve of the departure, the White House said Obama is looking forward to travelling to India to see the festivities associated with Republic Day first-hand.

"The President is very much looking forward to this visit. It is a genuine honour to be invited as guest for Republic Day. The President's looking forward to travelling there to see the festivities associated with Republic Day first-hand," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at his daily news conference.

"We've got many colourful descriptions about the parade and other festivities that go along with marking this important day. The President's looking forward to seeing it firsthand. He's also looking forward to a series of serious meetings with political leaders in India and certainly the meeting that he'll have with Prime Minister Modi," he said in response to a question.

President Obama certainly enjoyed the conversation that he had with Modi when he visited Washington at the end of last year and does see an opportunity to build a strong working relationship, not just between the two countries, but between the two leaders who share a sort of a common sense of purpose and vitality, he said.

"We know that Prime Minister Modi is very interested in injecting the kind of energy and vitality into the relationship between the United States and India.

"I can tell you that President Obama shares that desire and making the first-ever second trip by a US president to India during his presidency I think reflects the president's commitment to India, the Indian people, and the relationship between the US and India," Earnest said.

Economy, he said, is an important component to the policy agenda in India.

"There will be a number of US business leaders who'll be travelling to India in conjunction with the President's visit. That is because there are tremendous economic opportunities for American businesses in India," he said.

"We are interested in strengthening those ties, both for the benefit of the Indian people, but he's the American President and he's most interested in strengthening those ties to benefit the American people. Certainly, the opportunity, the business opportunity that exist in India, serves as a good opportunity to do just that," the White House Press Secretary said.