(Daily Mail) President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle arrived in India’s commercial hub of Mumbai on Saturday, days after voters punished his Democrats in mid-term elections.
Probably not since the days of the Pharaohs or the more ludicrous Roman Emperors has a head of state travelled in such pomp and expensive grandeur as the President of the United States of America.
While lesser mortals – the Pope, Queen Elizabeth and so on – are usually happy to let their hosts handle most of the security and transport arrangements when they venture beyond their home shores, the United States creates a mini-America on the move to ensure that nothing is left to chance.
Obama arrives in India at the start of a ten-day tour of Asia. At the heart of the White House caravan is ‘The Beast’, a gigantic, ‘pimped-up’ General Motors Cadillac which security experts say is, short of an actual battle tank, probably the safest road vehicle on the planet.
But an outlandish car is only the start. Mr Obama will fly, of course, on Air Force One, the presidential private jumbo jet, which, boasting double beds and suites, is fitted out more like a luxury yacht. Some reports suggest it costs around $50,000 (£31,000) an hour to operate.
Of course threats can come from any direction, so a squadron of U.S. naval ships will patrol offshore. Some reports have claimed that 34 ships, including two aircraft carriers, will be involved (not far off the size of the Royal Navy’s entire Surface Fleet) but the White House has denied this.
On land, as well as The Beast, Mr Obama’s entourage will travel in a fleet of 45 U.S.-built armoured limousines, half of which will be decoys. He will also travel with 30 elite sniffer dogs, mostly German Shepherds.
The White House has, according to some reports, booked the entire Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai, the city’s most luxurious. It is not uncommon for the grander heads of state to reserve a floor or two, but a whole hotel is unprecedented. This hotel was the main target of the 2008 attacks by Pakistani militants which left 166 dead.
As to the cost of all this, the White House will not reveal details – which has allowed Mr Obama’s political foes to bandy about sums including a widely-quoted $200million (£123million) a day. Whatever the figure, it makes the costs associated with the Royal Train and the late Royal Yacht Britannia seem like small change.
It is also reported that a bomb-proof tunnel will be erected for Mr Obama ahead of his visit to Mani Bhavan – the Gandhi museum – on Saturday.
According to Daily News & Analysis, U.S. secret service agents visited the museum on Monday to plan Mr Obama’s security during his tour.
They were accompanied by Mumbai Police officers and civic officials of the D ward where Mani Bhavan is located.
While they were inspecting the route and the buildings lining the path to the museum, U.S. security officers noticed a nearby skyscraper in the highly populated area that could pose a threat.
To the amazement of the Indians accompanying the U.S. agents, it was apparently decided to erect a bomb-proof over-ground tunnel, which will be installed by U.S. military engineers in just an hour.
The kilometre-long tunnel will measure 12ft by 12ft and will have air-conditioning, close-circuit television cameras, and will be heavily guarded at every point.
It’s being built so it is large enough for Mr Obama’s cavalcade to pass through and will be manned at its entry and exit points.