US President Obama cancels visit to Taj Mahal during India trip: Media

US President Barack Obama has cancelled plans to visit the Taj Mahal during his upcoming visit to India, according to local media. -- PHOTO: AFP
US President Barack Obama has cancelled plans to visit the Taj Mahal during his upcoming visit to India, according to local media. -- PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (AFP) - United States President Barack Obama has cancelled plans to visit the Taj Mahal during his upcoming visit to India, a local government official told AFP on Saturday.

Mr Obama was scheduled to go to India's famed monument to love with First Lady Michelle Obama on Tuesday, at the end of a three-day visit to the country. Hundreds of cleaners had been hired to spruce up the white marbled mausoleum in preparation for their arrival.

But the area’s top administrative official said he had been informed that the trip was off. “The proposed visit of Mr Obama has been cancelled,” Mr Pradeep Bhatnagar told AFP, confirming Indian media reports. “No specific reason was given to us, but it is believed that the change of regime in Saudi Arabia could be one of the reasons.”

The Hindustan Times website had earlier reported that Obama would cut short his India visit to travel to Saudi Arabia following the death of King Abdullah. The White House did not immediately return calls for comment on the reports.

Mr Obama will hold talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and become the first serving US president to be guest of honour at the Republic Day parade during his second visit to India since taking office.

Analysts say the invitation to attend Monday's Republic Day celebrations emphasises a new closeness between the world's two largest democracies.

In an interview published on Friday, Mr Obama said "the stars are aligned" to enable the United States and India to forge a global partnership.

The cancellation of the Taj Mahal visit would deprive the country's top tourist attraction of publicity at a time when the government is trying to boost visitor numbers.

Twitter users rushed to thank the President for orchestrating a clean-up of the mausoleum in the town of Agra, built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his beloved empress who died during childbirth in 1631.

"It was just Obama's clever plan to get Agra cleaned up. Thank you Obama," posted one under the name Anamika.