President Obama's Visit to India Gets Blanket Coverage in Local Media

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The first lady's dress sense proves a big hit.

On his second state visit to India, President Barack Obama received major coverage across all media as his three-day visit concluded Tuesday.

Obama became the first U.S. president to be chief guest at India's Republic Day parade, which took place Monday. Coverage of the parade — live on state broadcaster Doordarshan — was picked up by all news networks. The rain and cold weather didn't dampen the spirit of the crowd of an estimated 100,000 that attended the parade at New Delhi's historic Rajpath boulevard. Seen in the crowd were people holding signs saying, “India Loves Obama”.

The media was abuzz from the moment Air Force One landed in New Delhi on Sunday, when First Lady Michelle Obama stepped out wearing a floral dress from the spring 2015 collection of New York-based Indian designer Bibhu Mohapatra

The first lady had earlier worn a piece from Mohapatra's collection during an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 2012.  In the past, she has also worn outfits from other Indian-origin designers, such as Naeem Khan, Rachel Ray and Prabal Gurung.

The first lady's fashion sense was praised by Indian designers such as well-known Mumbai-based designer and Bollywood film stylist Manish Malhotra. “Obama wears different designers and also encourages younger designers. I hope she wears a lot of Indian textile and embroideries,” he told the Hindustan Times newspaper.

Another made-for-television moment saw Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Obama taking a stroll on the historic Hyderabad House lawns after an official working lunch. Modi and Obama later sat in the garden for a cup of tea.

The Obamas' India trip was to include a visit to the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra, about 113 miles from Delhi. However, the trip was canceled because the president had to travel to Saudi Arabia Tuesday to offer condolences for the death of King Abdullah. Had it happened, the Taj Mahal visit would have been a highlight, given that in the past, the monument has been visited by global figures from Diana, Princess of Wales to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Tom Cruise.

Obama's visit has been welcomed as a sign of improving U.S.-India relations. In an editorial comment Tuesday, leading newspaper The Times of India said, “There was a time when policy paralysis at home [in India] was reflected in a logjam in India's U.S. ties. President Obama's second India visit and evident bonhomie on display signal that the logjam is broken and a new beginning has been made.”

The two governments announced a major deal during the visit, signing a long-pending nuclear energy treaty, along with other agreements on defense and environment.

Wrapping up the visit, Obama addressed a town hall meeting Tuesday attended by about 2,000 invited delegates. He immediately won over the crowd in the opening moments of his speech as he praised India's various luminaries: "Every Indian should celebrate the success of [Bollywood superstar] Shah Rukh Khan, [female boxing Olympian] Mary Kom, and [legendary athlete] Milkha Singh equally, not by the color of skin, or worship."

Obama then quoted a part of a popular dialogue from Khan's 1995 Bollywood blockbuster Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (Only the Brave Shall Take the Bride): " 'Senorita...bade bade deshon mein....' You know the rest." The original line was spoken by Khan's character to his female romantic lead (played by actress Kajol) when they met by chance in Switzerland: "Senorita...bade bade deshon mein aishi chotti chotti baatein hoti rehti hain." ("Senorita, in big countries, such small things keep happening.")

“India and the U.S. are not just natural partners, but I believe America can be India's best partner,” said Obama. 

In a lighter moment, recalling his first India visit back in 2010, Obama said, “In my last visit we danced with some children and celebrated the festival of lights [Diwali]. I recognized India with the first visit of my presidency where we also danced to some 'Bhangra' [North Indian Punjabi folk music]. I apologize for not being able to schedule a dance this time.”