Obama schedule for India isn’t ‘finalised’

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : Amid reports that President Barack Obama has dropped plans to visit the Golden temple in Amritsar to avoid wearing a headscarf that could make him look like a Muslim, the White House has stressed his schedule isn’t “finalised.”

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“We have not finalised the schedule for Asia,” press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Wednesday on Air Force One. “Look, it’s a big country, and we’d love to spend more than the three allotted days” in India.

Obama’s itinerary was based on “what the president wants to accomplish,” and that consultations with Indian officials continued on the final schedule.

Earlier, a White House official said in a statement: “We have not yet released the final schedule for the President’s trip to Asia, including India.

“India is a vast and extraordinary country, and there are many more events that the President would like to do – and sites that our advance teams visit – than he will have time for during a three day visit,” the official said. “We will advise the president’s itinerary when it is finalised.”

The New York Times reported Wednesday that Obama’s itinerary would skip the Golden Temple in part to avoid having to put on a head covering-as required of all visitors to the shrine – that could reinforce the erroneous belief among some Americans that Obama is Muslim. Many Americans continue to confuse Sikhism with Islam.

A Pew Research Centre poll in August reported that nearly one-third of Republicans incorrectly thought he was a Muslim.

After the India visit shortly after the Nov 2 mid-term, Obama is expected to visit Indonesia, Japan and participate in the G-20 summit in Seoul, South Korea.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])