High-Alert in Delhi as President Obama Arrives for Republic Day
(NEW DELHI) — U.S. and Indian security agencies and intelligence services are mounting an unprecedented operation to keep President Obama safe on foreign soil as he arrives in India for a historic visit as “chief guest” of Republic Day.
Driving it all is the fact that the president will spend more than two hours outdoors Monday on an open-air viewing platform in the center of the city – a situation U.S. Secret Service tries very hard to avoid – made more complicated with foreign military aircraft crisscrossing overhead, tens of thousands of residents clogging surrounding streets (and escape routes), and Pakistani militants threatening terror.
“There’s not been a similar event that he’s attended overseas,” said deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes. “So this is unique.”
The memory of the September 2008 series of deadly coordinated bombings around Delhi is fresh on peoples’ minds in addition to the assault on a Mumbai hotel by alleged Pakistani militants two months later. India’s top military officials have warned in recent days of potential terror strikes by Pakistani militants against soft targets in and around New Delhi, a threat Pakistan denies.
The U.S. Secret Service and its Indian counterpart are not taking any chances. There will be more than 80,000 Indian police and paramilitary officers in the streets, officials say.
At least 15,000 closed-circuit TV cameras have been installed to watch the crowds and every inch of the parade route has been scouted for pre-planted bombs.
A city trying desperately to clean up its image has even overturned thousands of trash cans within a mile radius around the ceremonial area, which is also lined with steel fence.
An Indian AWACS plane will for the first time be watching all of this from above, monitoring any incoming projectiles or errant aircraft.
While Indian security forces turned down American demands for their snipers, they will for the first time let their chief guest arrive to the viewing stand in his own car – an American non-negotiable, according to officials.
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