Old, new India combine in pomp for Obama visit

By Alister Bull

NEW DELHI (BestGrowthStock) – President Barack Obama has spent his time in Mumbai and New Delhi praising new India as a rising global power and modernizing state, but the Asian giant’s history was thoroughly on display in the ceremonial portions of his visit.

In a ceremony reminiscent of past centuries, cannons boomed and Obama’s limousine was escorted by scarlet-uniformed cavalry down a red-clay path during the official welcoming ceremony in New Delhi on Monday at Rashtrapati Bhavan, India’s presidential palace.

Obama walked along a red carpet and stood under a red canvas with gold trim as a military band played the U.S. and Indian national anthems. Accompanied by the U.S. first lady, Michelle Obama, he greeted a crowd of dignitaries.

The country’s more recent history was on display later on Monday as the Obamas paid tribute at Raj Ghat, the memorial that marks the spot where Mahatma Gandhi, India’s independence leader, was cremated.

Gandhi’s legacy has been a theme of the visit to India by the first black U.S. president. The man known as the father of India is one of Obama’s heroes. Obama walked in the footsteps of another, U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King, who came to India and paid tribute to Gandhi in 1959.

King used Gandhi’s techniques of nonviolent resistance as a model for his fight for civil rights for African-Americans in the early 1960s.

At Raj Ghat, a sunken grassy courtyard decorated with flowers and where a flame flickered inside low white marble walls, sitar music played for a dignified wreath-laying ceremony. At the end of the ceremony, both Obamas, who had removed their shoes, cast handfuls of petals onto the memorial. The U.S. leader, who is praised for his oratorical skills, stood without speaking.

The White House has presented Obama’s visit, his first stop on a four-country, 10-day tour of Asia, to Americans as a trip to strengthen ties with the world’s largest democracy and about jobs for U.S. workers, trying to allay concerns about India’s outsourcing industry sending Americans onto the street.

On Sunday evening, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hosted a dinner for the Obamas, where military bands played to 80 senior politicians, business leaders and film stars on the lawns of the prime minister’s private residence over a spread of traditional Indian delicacies.

(Writing by Patricia Zengerle, editing by Sugita Katyal)

Old, new India combine in pomp for Obama visit