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White House comes to Taj

Sanjay Jog  |  Mumbai 

White House seems to be moving to the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai.

President Barack Obama will feel very much at home when he is at the hotel on November 6 and 7. Apart from the 12-room presidential suite, which will offer him almost the same comforts that he enjoys in White House, three satellites will ensure that his staff can operate exactly the same way as it does in Washington. The satellites will help the staff take any phone call at the Taj which is meant for White House.

The presidential office at the Taj will have 50 people working round the clock in a ‘cabinet room’, briefing room and a special control room. Obama will be briefed by his staff at least three times every day. An ultra-sophisticated video conference facility is being created in one of the rooms so that Obama, the world’s most heavily-guarded head of state, can hold quick meetings with Vice-President Joe Biden, or the army chief, Gen George W Casey Jr.

The only thing that will be missing from White House is the visitors. White House receives nearly 5,000 visitors every day, but that will not be possible in the makeshift White House as the entry at the hotel will be severely restricted. While the hotel will be guarded by US security and intelligence personnel, Mumbai police will provide logistics support. Meanwhile, four bulletproof cars have already arrived in the city for Obama’s movement.

The US authorities have booked all the 547 rooms at the hotel as well as its banquet halls and restaurants for the duration of Obama’s visit to the city. The Taj was at the centre of the Mumbai terrorist attacks of 26 November, 2008.

The security arrangements at the Taj will also be no less than White House. There will be four-tier security, comprising Mumbai police, paramilitary forces, commandos, secret service agents and CIA (Central Intelligence Agency of the US) personnel who will form the inner security ring around Obama.

Besides, the security officials have also carried out a headcount of all the big ships and vessels that will be present in and outside the Mumbai harbour. Their routine movement inside Mumbai Port and Jawaharlal Nehru Port will be closely monitored.

The first casualty of course will be the boat operators on the Arabian Sea opposite the hotel. Police have already issued a notice to the boat operators asking them to stop services from November 5 to 7. South Mumbai, the city’s business district, also faces a virtual shutdown on those three days.

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First Published: Sun, October 31 2010. 00:14 IST