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Obama accorded ceremonial welcome, says it’s an honour

New Delhi, Jan 25 US President Barack Obama, who was accorded a ceremonial red carpet welcome at Rashtrapati Bhavan Sunday, said it’s “a great honour” to be back in India.

“It’s a great honour to be back in India. I am grateful for the extraordinary hospitality,” Obama told reporters in the forecourt of the magnificent presidential palace where he was escorted by Wing Commander Puja Thakur as he inspected the tri-service guard of honour.

President’s Bodyguard’s mounted troops earlier escorted the US presidential motorcade that rolled in at 12.15 p.m. through the iron gates of the impressive presidential palace.

The 21-gun salute sounded as horses escorted The Beast – carrying the US president – down the path leading to the forecourt.

He was received by President Pranab Mukherjee dressed in a black bandgala suit and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had changed into a light striped black bandgala suit from his morning attire of light cream-coloured kurta pyjama with beige Nehru jacket paired with a red shawl.

Obama chatted and laughed with Mukherjee and Modi before proceeding to a podium for the ceremonial welcome.

Obama, who is the first US president to be chief guest at India’s Republic Day parade, walked along the red carpet to stand on a podium, covered by a red canvas top with gold trim.

The military band stretched in ranks before him as the national anthems of India and the US were played.

He then inspected the tri-service guard of honour.

Obama was introduced to union Ministers Rajnath Singh, Manohar Parrikar, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu, Lieutenant Governor of Delhi Nejeeb Jung, and Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha.

Once again Obama exchanged pleasantries and warmly shook hands with Mukherjee and Modi.

He folded his hands together to say ‘Namaste’, the traditional Indian way of greeting, as he left for Rajghat to pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi.