OBAMA, FROM CHIEF GUEST ON INDIA’S REPUBLIC DAY TO CHIEF WELL-WISHER OF NEW SAUDI KING

NewsUSA & Other Regions
By Mary Foran

 

Well, President Obama didn’t go to France to march with other world leaders after the Paris terrorist attacks, but he did fly to India to meet with leaders there, and then cut short his stay before seeing the Taj Majal to fly with the First Lady Michelle to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to pay his respects to the new King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, after the death of the late King Abdullah, who died on 23 January at the age of 90.

Pres. Obama toasts Prime Minister

Pres. Obama toasts Prime Minister Naredra Modi at the State Dinner hosted by Pres. Pranab Mukherjee at the historic Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi, 25 January 2015 (WH/Pete Souza)

Saudi Arabia, besides being the caretaker of two of the holiest shrines of the Muslim religion, Mecca (a.k.a. Makkah), the birthplace of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, and Madinah, the place where the Prophet is buried, is a sometimes ally of the U.S. in fighting the scourge of ISIS militants, and a major oil producer. Now the country is in mourning for the deceased king, and President Obama has pledged support to the new King Salman who promised continuity in the kingdom.

The new King ofSaudi Arabia in 2013 on an official visit to the United States as then prince

New Saudi King Salman on an official visit to the United States in 2012 shortly before he was appointed Crown Prince

The Saudi Kingdom is proud to be the guardian of the two holiest shrines in Islam, the other being the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, where the Prophet Muhammad ascended into heaven. The Kingdom dedicates much of its resources to serving pilgrims on their hajj to the holy shrines.

Yemen, which has been in the news of late, is at the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula, so President Obama’s trip is strategic as well as conciliatory. But critics see the President as “too willing to bow to Saudi Kings”, and think he should be taking a stronger stance against the funding of radical Islamic groups of which the Kingdom is accused.

A supplicant pilgrim at the Mecca

Pilgrim praying at the Mecca

In any case, good relations with the Kingdom at the heart of Islam can only be beneficial for American and European interests in the region.

Condolences for the death of the King, and respects for the new King Salman.

 

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 An exultant Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi Tweeted: “This Republic Day, we hope to have a friend over…invited President Obama to be the 1st US President to grace the occasion as Chief Guest.”
3:00 PM – 21 Nov 2014

 And so he was — the first U.S. president to be the Chief Guest at India’s celebration of its Republic Day in New Delhi, India. Seeing the enthusiastic welcome the Indians gave the U.S. leader, it doesn’t seem possible that not so long ago India had a closer relationship with Russia. In fact Russian-made Sukhoi fighter jets and T-90 tanks were very much part of the military segment of the Republic Day parade.

As Obama’s Cadillac came into view the parade announcer observed: “The crowd is getting understandably excited and ecstatic at the arrival of the motorcade of the president of the United States, Barack Obama.” To the Indians, the presence of the American leader was a sign that their country has finally made it to the world stage. It was therefore a great source of pride.

Pres. Obama and Prime Minister Mori share tea in the garden of the Hyderabad House (WH/PeteSuosa)

Pres. Obama and Prime Minister Mori drink tea in the garden of the Hyderabad House, 25 January 2015 (WH/PeteSuosa)

Male dancers

Dancers at the Republic Day parade, 26 January 2015 (White House/Pete Souza)

The .S. president and the Indiam PM -- see the elaborate headgear -- chat at one point during the parade

The U.S. president and the Indian PM — see the elaborate headgear — chat at one point during the parade (WH/Lawrence Jackson)

The Obamas wave to the  several-thousand-strong crowd after the parade

The Obamas wave to the over-a-hundred–thousand spectators after the parade (WH/Pete Souza)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images

>Topmost photo: colorfully clad camel at the Republic Day parade, White House/Lawrence Jackson
>The then Prince Salman of Saudi Arabia, U.S. Department of Defense photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo, cropped, PD 
>Supplicating pilgrim at Masjid Al Haram, Mecca by Ali Mansuri (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Ali_Imran), CC By-Share 2.5 Generic