President Obama shortened his three day visit to India – canceling a planned visit to the Taj Mahal – in order to make a stop in Saudi Arabia to offer condolences on the death of King Abdullah and meet the new Saudi leader, King Salman.
This is an excellent idea. The Saudis, despite their many serious flaws, are a key ally in a region where we are fast losing allies and influence.
From the White House:
President Obama and the First Lady will travel to Riyadh on Tuesday, January 27 in order to pay respects to King Salman bin Abdulaziz and the family of the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz. The Vice President was originally to have led a delegation to Saudi Arabia on the President’s behalf. As the President’s and Vice President’s travel schedules became clearer, we determined that the window when the Vice President would be on the ground in Riyadh coincided with the President’s departure from India.
Accordingly, we adjusted the schedule in coordination with the Indian Government so that the President would be able to depart India following his speech on Tuesday to stop in Riyadh during the return trip to meet with King Salman and other Saudi officials and offer his condolences on behalf of the American people. The President regrets that he will be unable to visit Agra during this trip. The Vice President will remain in Washington.
Ah well. The Obamas skipped the Taj Mahal last time they went to India, no doubt with the intention of seeing it next time. I’m wondering if it’s the main reason Mrs. Obama, who often doesn’t travel overseas with the president, accompanied him on this trip.
The Obamas departed for India this morning.