United States President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle on Monday added to the sheen of the traditional ‘At-Home’ hosted by President Pranab Mukherjee on Republic Day at the decked-up Mughal Garden of Rashtrapati Bhavan.
The couple, who just hours before attended the Republic Day parade, were the centre of attention as they waved, smiled and shook hands with the other guests at the high tea.
With security restrictions in place, the US president and his wife Michelle settled in the VVIP enclosure, which had been expanded this time to include cabinet ministers and senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders including its president Amit Shah and L K Advani.
As President Pranab Mukherjee arrived at the sprawling lawns, both the heads of state shook hands, with lens men shouting “once more”.
Mukherjee, Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was dressed in a red coloured jacket with a cream coloured shawl, went around meeting VVIPs in the enclosure.
On the platter were ‘chicken malai tikka, cheese cucumber sandwiches, Aloo-matar ke samose, paneer wrap, anar bhog and fruit slice for the guests.
Over 2,000 people had gathered in the lawns on the occasion. Obama stayed seated within the VIIP encloure after meeting the three services chiefs and 95-year-old Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh, with whom he spent a couple of minutes.
Before leaving the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the president and Obama had a tete-a-tete during which Mukherjee told the visiting dignitary that he was “very happy to receive him in India”. The American president thanked him and complimented him by saying “it’s wonderful to have such an experienced person as the president of India.”
This time, because of the security arrangements, pathways were already demarcated to allow the two presidents and Modi to meet the public. On earlier occasions, Mukherjee used to keep his security at length and freely mingle with the people who had gathered at the function.
On Monday, while Mukherjee and Modi were meeting people, Vice President Hamid Ansari and his wife Salma were giving company to Michelle and the US president.
BJP President Amit Shah was seated next to Vimla Sharma, wife of former President S D Sharma.
Gursharan Kaur, wife of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, had arrived at the venue earlier while her husband followed with Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
The Congres chief and Singh had earlier called on Obama. Advani, who had come with his daughter Pratibha, mostly kept to himself during the entire stretch of the function. Besides politicians, diplomats from various countries were invited at the event.