"The U.S. and India are working together more closely than ever to keep their people safe"
Making terror the centre-piece of his address, United States President Barack Obama said here on Saturday his visit intended to send a very clear message that India and his country were united in their determination to give their people a future of security and prosperity.
In his remarks, commemorating the 26/11 terror attack, to a select gathering on a terrace at the Taj Mahal Palace and Towers, Mr. Obama termed Mumbai a symbol of the incredible energy and optimism that defined India in the 21st century. “And ever since those horrific days two years ago, the Taj has been the symbol of the strength and the resilience of the Indian people,” he pointed out.
Speaking from a podium, silhouetted against the historic Gateway of India, the President, accompanied by Ms. Obama, said: “There's been a great deal of commentary on our decision to begin our visit here in this dynamic city, at this historic hotel. And to those who have asked whether this is intended to send a message, my answer is simply, absolutely.”
In his 10-minute address, he drew on the fact that today, the U.S. and India were working together more closely than ever to keep their people safe. He said he looked forward to deepening the U.S.' counter-terrorism cooperation even further when he met with Prime Minister Singh in New Delhi.
Without mentioning Pakistan in his speech, Mr. Obama stressed that India and the U.S. had “worked closer than ever, sharing intelligence, preventing more attacks, and demanding that the perpetrators be brought to justice.”
“By striking the places where our countries and people come together, those who perpetrated these horrific attacks hoped to drive us apart. But just as Indian citizens lost their lives on 9/11, American citizens lost their lives here on 26/11 — along with the citizens of many nations,” he said.
Mr. Obama said India and the U.S. were going forward with confidence, knowing that history was on their side. He was categorical that those who targeted the innocent offered nothing but death and destruction. He referred to the shared determination of India and the U.S. and averred that they were “two partners that will never waver in our defence of our people or the democratic values that we share.”
Making a reference to Mahatma Gandhi, Mr. Obama said: “For just as your first Prime Minister said the day that the father of your nation was taken from you, we shall never allow that torch of freedom to be blown out, however high the wind or stormy the tempest. We believe that in America, and we know you believe it here in India.”
The President and the First Lady arrived by Air Force One at the Mumbai airport at 12.50 p.m. At the Taj, he signed the visitor's book along with Ms. Obama and they placed two single white roses at the marble memorial to the 31 people who were killed in the terror strike on the Taj. “We will always remember the events of 26/11, not only the sorrow, but also the courage and humanity that was displayed that day. The United States stands in solidarity with all of Mumbai and all of India in working to eradicate the scourge of terrorism and we offer our lasting friendship with the Indian people,” they wrote.
Before his address, the Obamas met a few survivors and affected families at the Taj.