As part of the heightened security for the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama, the Maharashtra government is planning to take the help of the National Security Guard (NSG) from Mumbai, in addition to enlisting the full strength of the city police and some battalions of the State Reserve Police Force. The elite force was called in during the 26/11 attacks. The city now has its own NSG hub.
Mr. Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are set to arrive here on Saturday and will stay the night in the presidential suite of Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel.
Around 3,000 personnel will accompany the President and an equal number are believed to have already flown into and out of the city to prepare for the visit.
“All security decisions are with the Maharashtra police and the State Home department. We have got SRPF battalions. We may ask for NSG snipers since they are based here, locally. Central forces are not necessary,” said a government official who did not wish to be named.
Mr. Obama will be coming with three Boeing 747 jumbo jets and two others will be coming before him with equipment. An advance team of U.S. officials is set to arrive here on Wednesday. The U.S. is spending about $200 million a day towards Mr. Obama's visit, the official said on Tuesday.
The Maharashtra government is believed to have put its foot down on the amount of weapons and ammunition that will be carried by the U.S. authorities. Mr. Obama's personal security guards and those around him will be allowed to carry weapons. Beyond this circle, only the Mumbai police will be allowed to possess arms.
“There will be an inner and outer cordon around the President. His place of stay will be cordoned off and the cordon will move with him.”
While Maharashtra is following the protocol laid down by the Ministry of External Affairs for state visits, officials are alive to the terror threat associated with Mr. Obama's visit, especially in light of the 26/11 strikes.
“We are taking the high security issue into account. Plus, Diwali is round the corner and the second anniversary of 26/11 is approaching. We are aware of the standard alerts,” the official said.
The Navy has been told to intensify patrolling of the seas. A similar request to survey the airspace will be made to the Air Force. Airspace will be sealed for a brief period of 10-30 minutes at the time of Mr. Obama's arrival and departure.
The Gateway of India, which faces the Taj, has also become a high security point. “Between Saturday and Sunday, till the time Mr. Obama leaves, there will be no boat movement at the Gateway. Boats would be asked to anchor at Bhaucha Dhakka, a ferry wharf shed nearby,” the official said.
Along the routes taken by the President, electronic jammers will be installed, creating dead spots for the duration his convoy passes.
Traffic will be restricted on the road from the naval helicopter base INS Shikra to the Taj hotel.
The State government is upset at Mr. Obama giving the police memorial for 26/11 martyrs the go-by. The authorities have also written to the MEA expressing their displeasure.
“Mr. Obama is going to make a statement on terrorism at the Taj, where entry is only by invitation. More people died outside the hotel. What about them? What about the police officers who were killed? It should have been a public statement. We have written to the MEA expressing our displeasure,” an official said.