Secret service did not clear Obama’s visit

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Old 30-Oct-2010
Secret service did not clear Obama’s visit

Chandigarh October 30:

The visit of US President Barack Obama to the Golden Temple was cancelled due to security reasons and not “lack of time” as announced by the US State Department. Highly placed sources have said that the US Government sent teams to only Mumbai and Amritsar to ascertain if the Taj Hotel and the Golden Temple were safe for the President to visit.

The recent spurt in militancy related activity, showing renewed effort on the part of Pakistan to activate sympathisers of militants in Punjab was one factor that resulted in excluding Amritsar from the President’s itinerary. Besides the possibility of Islamic fundamentalists from Kashmir, who have close ties with jihadis in Pakistan and Afghanistan having easy access to Amritsar, further supported the US Government.

The Indian intelligence agencies regularly share information with their American counterparts. The US agencies were, therefore, aware of the activity in the Babbar Khalsa International support base. The group’s head, Wadhawa Singh Babbar, also called “Chacha”, currently in Pakistan, is under tremendous pressure from the ISI to regroup his cadres in Punjab. Two operatives of this group were arrested earlier this week from Uttar Pradesh.

The arrest of Khalistan Commando Force (KCF) activist Sukhwinder Singh and reports of some others former militants re-grouping also contributed in President Obama’s crack team deciding against his visiting Punjab. Meanwhile, while reacting to President Obama’s itinerary, which skips a visit to the Goldent Temple, Dr Rajwant Singh, Chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education, said, “This is disappointing that President Obama will not visit the Golden Temple.

Three months ago, I had proposed this visit by President Obama to the Golden Temple only for spiritual reasons. I deeply regret President Obama missed the opportunity to send a powerful message of global peace and harmony in the South Asian region and in the world.” He said if President Obama visited the Golden Temple “it surely would have shown America’s respect for all faiths and traditions. Also this would have been a wonderful opportunity to show that America is not all about war and money."

Dr Rajwant Singh said “the Indian government was under this impression that President Obama was set to go to Amritsar and I’m told that certain ministers were already assigned to accompany the President to Amritsar. The change in decision has hurt most Sikhs”. A 35-member advance team of US officials had visited Amritsar and according to officials in Amritsar, all necessary requirements were met.

There is no record of a team of this size checking any other site in India for Obama’s visit. Obviously the message was clear that President Obama will visit Amritsar. Amritsar civil administration gave full assurances to the US secret service team and the embassy officials were fully satisfied about the arrangements according the civil administrator in Amritsar. Dr Singh added, "I truly want to know whether this decision was taken by the President himself or some aides advised him based on some domestic compulsions.”

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