Review Category : Poltics

Splits on Iran, Cuba Dominate First GOP Presidential Forum

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(PALM SPRINGS, Calif.) — The first 2016 presidential forum of the year revealed sharp divisions on foreign policy Sunday night, with Sen. Rand Paul breaking with his colleagues on both Iran and Cuba — a split that’s likely to play out in detail over the next year.

Flanked by Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio, Paul joked when the panel’s moderator, ABC’s Jonathan Karl, asked a question about Cuba, “I’m kinda surrounded on this one.”

He was right. The night’s liveliest moments came when Paul said his colleagues in Congress should give the president negotiating space with Iran before imposing new rounds of sanctions.

“They’re saying you want 535 negotiators, not the president,” said Paul, R-Ky. “Diplomacy is better than war, and we should give diplomacy a chance.”

His fellow senators pounced. Cruz called Iran the “single greatest threat in the United States today,” and said the problem is trying to negotiate with Iranian leaders he called “radical Islamic nutcases.”

“When you have religious leaders who glorify death or suicide, ordinary cost-benefit analysis doesn’t work,” said Cruz, R-Texas.

Rubio agreed that Paul is misguided in trusting the president that a true deal disarming Iran is even possible.

“I am a little cautious and perhaps skeptical about negotiating with someone who has said, either be with us or die,” said Rubio, R-Fla.

But Paul suggested that his colleagues would put the United States on a path to war.

“Many times in our fear and anger and distrust and we want to – you know, what are we going to do?” said Paul. “Are you ready to send ground troops into Iran? Are you ready to bomb ‘em? Are you ready to send 100,000 troops?”

Similarly, on Cuba, Paul was more closely aligned with Obama than with his GOP colleagues. He called it a “form of isolationism” to be “retreating, not engaging” with other countries.

Rubio and Cruz, who are both Cuban-American, sharply if politely disagreed while sitting on opposite sides of Paul.

“It’s hard to argue that the president’s deal is a good one,” Rubio said.

The forum featuring the senators was the first such event of 2015. It was held barely 24 hours after the first major Republican showcase event of the 2016 campaign, at an all-day conservative gathering Saturday in Iowa.

Sunday night’s panel was sponsored by the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a not-for-profit connected to Charles and David Koch that is holding a donor conference at an exclusive resort in Palm Springs.

The 75-minute forum featuring the three senators and Karl was the only portion of the conference that wasn’t shielded from the press and the public. Freedom Partners provided reporters a link to a private livestream of the event, and the first 15 minutes of the forum aired live at ABCNews.com.

The splits on economic and domestic policy were mild by comparison to those over foreign policy. All three senators indicated that they would reject a deal that would cut $10 in spending for every $1 in new taxes, though none of them directly answered the question.

That marks a potential split with former Gov. Jeb Bush. He said he would have taken such a deal back in 2012, after all of that cycle’s presidential contenders said in a highly publicized debate moment that they wouldn’t sign off on a trade like that.

“When and if any of the people up here run for president, there should be an absolute rule: No yes or no answers,” Paul said. He then indicated that he wouldn’t like such a deal. “I think we have plenty of taxes in this country.”

Cruz said that while it’s a question “the media likes to ask,” it represents a false choice.

“That trade-off has proven historically to be a fool’s errand,” Cruz said. “It’s a little bit like Lucy and the football. One element of the promise never happens.”

Rubio chimed in: “The only way you can get out of this problem is spending discipline, holding the line on spending, and rapid and dynamic economic growth.”

None of the three candidates directly answered whether they think there should be a federal minimum wage, though none advocated repealing it, either. They did agree that too many people make — as Cruz said — “zero dollars and zero cents” in an economy they don’t think the president deserves credit for improving.

“I think the minimum wage consistently hurts the most vulnerable,” Cruz said.

The debate also drew some agreement on the question of whether Mitt Romney should run for president again. Rubio was the most mild in his critique of the most recent GOP nominee, saying that he “ran the best race he possibly could,” and that he didn’t want to second-guess his campaign.

Paul referenced the fact that Romney’s wife is among those who have said they didn’t want him to run again: “I’m kind of with Ann Romney on this one — No, no, no, no, no.”

Said Cruz: “The reason Republicans lost can be summed up in two words: ‘47 percent.’ ”

In a reference to the crowd of some 450 well-heeled conservatives — including the Koch brothers themselves, who have emerged as among the largest financial forces in politics — Karl asked at the end of the forum if the super-rich have too much influence in politics.

Rubio broke a long pause.

“As opposed to Hollywood or the mainstream media, you mean?” Rubio said. “I believe in freedom of speech.”

Cruz turned his fire on Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, for suggesting that the Koch brothers are “nefarious billionaires.”

“Let me be very clear: I think that is grotesque and offensive,” Cruz said. “I admire Charles and David Koch. They are businessmen who have created hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

Rubio also shot back at the suggestion by some governors — including, notably, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — that only someone who’s served in an executive capacity should be the Republican nominee next year. He said that only senators have the foreign-policy depth to navigate a complex world.

“Taking a trip to some foreign city for two days does not make you Henry Kissinger,” Rubio said.

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White House Chief of Staff: U.S. ‘Sparing No Effort’ to Free American ISIS Hostage

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — Following the apparent execution of a Japanese hostage this weekend by ISIS, President Barack Obama’s chief of staff said Sunday the U.S. is working aggressively to free the remaining Japanese hostage as well as a female American hostage held by the radical Islamic group.

“Well, the president had a good talk overnight, our time here, with [Japanese] Prime Minister Abe, underscoring our continued support for and partnership with the Japanese, they [are] making this huge investment of, you know, halfway around the world, like we are, in Iraq and Syria against ISIS,” White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said on This Week.

“And as it relates to our hostages, we are obviously continuing to work those matters very, very aggressively. We are sparing no expense and sparing no effort, both in trying to make sure that we know where they are and make sure that we’re prepared to do anything we must to try to get them home,” he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

The president’s chief of staff also addressed the chaos that engulfed the country of Yemen in recent days, after the country’s president and cabinet resigned under pressure from Houthis rebels who had seized the country’s capital.

The power struggle has thrown U.S. counter-terrorism strategy against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula into doubt, with McDonough saying it “remains to be seen” if the Houthi forces will have the same commitment to working with the U.S. to fight al Qaeda forces in Yemen.

“That remains to be seen. And what the president also said today is that we want to see this resolved through a political process that’s transparent, that includes all the actors in the country, mindful of the fact that AQAP lives in these chaotic situations,” McDonough said.

“So I’m not going to jump to any conclusions. I am going to say to the parties on the ground that they have to resolve this transparently, peacefully, politically. And we will, while they’re doing that, continue to make sure that we’re focused on the threats to us and to our people,” McDonough added.

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Gov. Bobby Jindal: US Needs a Spiritual Revival

Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) — Like a lot of Republicans with national name recognition, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is “seriously looking” at a 2016 White House bid, but he says the country needs more that just for the right candidate to win.

“We can’t just elect a candidate and fix what ails our country,” he said at a prayer rally that he attended Saturday instead of the Iowa Freedom Summit. “We can’t just pass a law and fix what ails our country. We need a spiritual revival to fix what ails our country.”

The Louisiana Republican, who told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos he’s “seriously looking at” a 2016 White House bid, said the relationship between leadership and prayer “is as old as our country.”

“You know, it is a time-honored tradition, going back to our nation’s founding, for our presidents, for our leaders to turn to God for guidance, for wisdom,” he said on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos.

When asked about the crowded GOP presidential field, Jindal said voters want leaders “who have the courage to speak the truth,” citing his controversial comments last week in London as evidence.

In that speech, Jindal said there were Muslim “no-go zones” in Britain and Western Europe carrying out Sharia law — a claim disputed by many, including British Prime Minister David Cameron.

“I know it made a lot of people upset, but we need leaders to tell us the truth,” he said. “I think people are looking for leaders who are willing to take on the big challenges.”

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Thinks He Could ‘Certainly’ Win Iowa

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie thinks he could “certainly” win Iowa in 2016.

Christie spoke exclusively with ABC News following his speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit, the first major event of the year to bring together a dozen potential presidential candidates in Iowa. Christie has made six trips to the Hawkeye State since 2014.

“I don’t know why they keep inviting me back if I can’t win here,” Christie told ABC News. “I certainly think I could.”

As he prepares for a possible 2016 run, Christie has already tapped political operatives in the state, including Phil Valenziano, who served as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s Iowa field director ahead of the 2012 caucuses.

Christie also traveled to Iowa last week for the inauguration of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad.

“I’m being deliberative about it and I’m not going to let anybody else rush me,” he said. “We’ll make it sometime soon, but everybody defines soon differently right?”

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Obama Visits Memorial to Mahatma Gandhi on First Day of India Trip

Photo by Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images(NEW DELHI) — President Obama arrived in India for a three-day trip on Sunday, visiting the Raj Gat, a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi.

The U.S. president laid a wreath of white flowers at the site where Gandhi, the father of modern India, was cremated after his 1948 assassination on Sunday. He also inscribed the guest book, referencing Martin Luther King, Jr.

“What Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said then remains true today,” Obama wrote. “‘The spirit of Gandhi is very much alive in India, and it remains a great gift to the world. May we always live in his spirit of love and peace — among all people and nations.'”

While at the Raj Gat, Obama bowed next to the eternal flame and threw two handfuls of flower petals atop the marble platform. He also planted a tree to honor Ghandi’s legacy.

Later on Sunday, Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi walked through the gardens of the Hyderabad House, the state guesthouse for the Indian prime minister, drinking tea and discussing a long-stalled civil nuclear deal that would allow American companies to build reactors in India.

At a joint press conference, Obama discussed the agreed upon friendship agreement. “Not only is it grounded in the values we share,” he said, “but it commits us to regular meetings at the leaders level and sets up frequent consultations across our government.”

On the Indian prime minister, Obama said that Modi “described…his ambitious efforts to empower rural Indians with bank accounts, and to ensure clean water and clean air for the Indian people; and we want to be partners in this effort.”

The two nations also agreed to work together, on a leadership level, to tackle climate change and renewed a defense agreement that was set to expire in June.

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Obama Shares Unlikely Friendship with Indian Prime Minister Modi

Photo by Vinod Singh/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(NEW DELHI) — If there’s an Indian equivalent of President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Narenda Modi just might be it.

The rapidly budding friendship between the two leaders, catching many observers by surprise, stems from shared experiences with democratic organizing, a technological savvy, and deep personal ambition, U.S. officials say.

And it comes in spite of the fact that Modi is a right-wing Hindu extremist.

“He is in a party which has a lot of fringe views. They have views about India being a country only for Hindus,” said Milan Vaishnav, a leading India analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “He ideologically is of one with this movement.”

Many in Modi’s party are deeply fearful of Muslims, want to ban cow slaughter, and revise the nation’s textbooks to present a slanted history.

The views contrast sharply with Obama’s global advocacy for diverse multicultural societies where minority views and rights are protected and even openly celebrated.

But experts say a little bit of Obama may be rubbing off on his new “bro,” a friendly nickname he’s used to describe British Prime Minister David Cameron and other world leaders he considers friends.

“We don’t know what is in his heart but he is clever enough to recognize that destiny has given him this opportunity,” Ashley Tellis, a former senior adviser to the ambassador at the U.S. embassy in New Delhi, said of Modi. “Whatever his ‘real views’ are, he’s going to be ruthlessly pragmatic because that’s the ticket to political longevity and power.”

Obama doesn’t seem to mind. His hearty embrace and back slap of Modi on the tarmac after landing on Air Force One was replayed on loop on Indian TV.

The two men will spend more than 10 hours together Sunday in Delhi, including a joint visit to the memorial for the father of India, Mahatma Gandhi, a private lunch and meeting, a state dinner, and cultural celebration.

On Monday, they will be partners on stage for the elaborate Republic Day parade.

“Are they buddy-buddy? That’s for them to tell you about,” said Richard Rossow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “But more importantly for the president of the United States, he sees a counterpart that will actually try to deliver on things that are promised in those meetings.”

On the surface, they would seem to be unlikely friends. Modi had been banned for 10 years from visiting the U.S. by the State Department for his alleged complicity in ethnic riots in 2002 that left thousands of Muslims dead in his home state.

After Modi was elected last year, the U.S. government was forced to take a different course by default, forging ties with a man with whom they had none and rescinding the visa ban allowing him to enter the U.S. They held their first bilateral summit in Washington in September.

“Personal relationships play a big role in who [leaders] choose to engage with, and I think there’s no better indication of the fact that they seem to have gotten along fine than the fact that the president agreed to go back so soon [to India],” said Rossow.

Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said the administration sees a lot of Obama in Modi.

“In their first conversation after Prime Minister Modi’s election, I think they noted some similarities in terms of how their campaigns kind of changed the way in which politics was practiced in their respective countries,” he said.

They also came into office with super-sized expectations for bringing about political change. While Obama is in the twilight of his term, Modi is just beginning.

“Our hope is that the chemistry between the leaders and the personal relationship can lead to positive outcomes for our country,” said Rhodes. “It’s worth the investment in the relationship with the country, the leader, and the people of India.”

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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: What Shopping at Kohl’s Has to Do With His White House Hopes

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images(DES MOINES, Iowa) — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the first big 2016 name to take the stage at the Iowa Freedom Summit, got a rousing reception on Saturday from the conservative activists gathered and promised to “be back many more times in the future.”

“I’m hopeful to work together with you to help us provide that type of leadership that is new and fresh and bold and aggressive that has been proven, that commonsense conservative reforms from outside Washington, D.C., can help and with your help I have no doubt we can move this country forward, we can have our own American revival,” he said in what sounded like a debut of a presidential campaign speech.

It was one of his first big national addresses and Walker stressed his governing credentials and how — due to a recall — he’s been successfully re-elected “three times in the last four years,” something he will undoubtedly repeat on the campaign trail, if he runs.

“Three times mind you in a state that hasn’t gone Republican for president since I was in high school more than 30 years ago, how about that,” Walker said to applause. “I think that sends a powerful message to Republicans in Washington and around the country, if you are not afraid to go big and bold you can actually get results.”

While walking back and forth across the stage, Walker also portrayed himself as a fighter, describing in detail how protesters during the 2012 re-call sent him and his family “assassination” threats.

“Someone literally sent me a threat that said they were going to gut my wife like a deer,” Walker said, noting he didn’t back down, but the threats reminded him “how important it was to stand up for the people of my state.”

He ticked off his conservative successes in his state, saying he’s “taken on aggressive agenda” including cutting taxes and reducing spending, merit education hiring, anti-abortion rights measures, voter ID laws, and other victories for the approving crowd.

He stressed that in Wisconsin — as opposed to Washington — he is focused on how to “give more money back to the people who earned it.”

Describing in detail how thrifty he and his wife are, he told the crowd that next month he will celebrate his 23rd wedding anniversary with his wife Tonette, but when they were first married he “made a critical mistake.”

“I went to a Kohl’s department store and I bought something for the price it was marked at,” Walker said. “My wife said to me, ‘You can never go back there ever again until you learn how to shop at Kohl’s.'”

He then detailed his frugal shopping skills in order to get so much money off the price of a shirt “the next thing you know they are paying me to buy that shirt!”

The crowd cheered his budget-cutting ways, and although he didn’t mention any of his possible Republican rivals by name, he set up quite a contrast with at least two of his wealthy possible opponents, Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney.

He said “hard work” is not just a “buzzword” for him, describing his background and noting his humble beginnings, which included part of his childhood spent in the first caucus state of Iowa.

“In America, the opportunity is equal for each and every one of us, but in America the ultimate outcome is up to each and every one of us individually,” he said, towards the end of his speech, which he finished to a rousing standing ovation from the crowd.

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Trump Blasts Romney, Jeb Bush; ‘Seriously Thinking’ About Presidential Run

Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images(DES MOINES, Iowa) — Donald Trump arrived at a high-profile GOP gathering in Iowa to train his fire on his fellow Republicans, telling the audience that neither Mitt Romney nor Jeb Bush can win the presidential nomination.

He drew applause for those lines at the Freedom Summit on Saturday, a gathering that neither of those men attended.

“It can’t be Mitt, because Mitt ran and failed. He failed,” Trump said, bringing cheers from the audience. “He choked. He had that election won.”

Turning to Bush, Trump cited the former Florida governor’s support of Common Core education standards and a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants as straying too far from conservative ideology.

He also condemned Bush’s brother President George W. Bush’s appointment of Chief Justice John Roberts to the Supreme Court, since Roberts authored the opinion that saved Obamacare.

“The last thing we need is another Bush,” Trump said, drawing more applause.

Trump also told the Iowa Freedom Summit what he’s been telling interviewers and audiences for weeks, even though his history would leave many doubting his sincerity.

“I am seriously thinking of running for president,” he said. “We have a presidential election coming up. We have some good people — nobody like Trump, of course.”

In a brief interview with ABC News, Trump insisted that he’s serious about running for president this time — even though he flirted with and rejected White House runs in 1988, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012.

Seeking to demonstrate that, he brought handouts to the Freedom Summit, the conservative confab that drew as many as 10 potential Republican candidates for president, although Bush, Romney, and Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul were among the prominent no-shows.

Attendees got postcard-sized two-sided pictures featuring Trump. Included were a younger Trump shaking hands with the late President Ronald Reagan — and a much, much younger Trump in his Presbyterian confirmation class, in 1959.

One of the cards also includes a glossy family photo, with bold type at the top: “THE KEY TO SUCCESS IS HAPPINESS THROUGH FAMILY.”

“I was friendly with Reagan,” Trump told ABC. “I got along with him great. I’m a big fan of his. I had a great relationship with him.”

Asked why voters should take him seriously this time around, when he’s made similar noises about a presidential run so many previous times, Trump insisted that he’s in a better place in his own life, and therefore really, really serious this time.

“Because I’m in a great position from every standpoint. My children are in executive positions. And from every standpoint I’m in a great position,” Trump said.

Trump indicated to the crowd that if he runs, he’ll offer an aggressive alternative to his fellow Republicans. With customary braggadocio — he said his company is “incredible,” that he owns “many, many” websites, and that the American people will be “very proud of me” if and when he files financial disclosure forms.

He expressed anger not just with President Obama but Republicans in Congress.

“I’m very disappointed by our Republican politicians, because they let the president get away with absolute murder,” he said.

He said he’d build a “beauty” of a border fence if elected president, and tweaked Republican doctrine that favors curbing entitlement reform.

“I’ll probably be the only Republican who doesn’t want to cut Social Security,” he said. “I’m not a cutter of Social Security. I want to make the country rich so we can afford Social Security, and Medicare, and Medicaid.”

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Trump Blasts Romney, Jeb Bush; ‘Seriously Thinking’ About Presidential Run

Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images(DES MOINES, Iowa) — Donald Trump arrived at a high-profile GOP gathering in Iowa to train his fire on his fellow Republicans, telling the audience that neither Mitt Romney nor Jeb Bush can win the presidential nomination.

He drew applause for those lines at the Freedom Summit on Saturday, a gathering that neither of those men attended.

“It can’t be Mitt, because Mitt ran and failed. He failed,” Trump said, bringing cheers from the audience. “He choked. He had that election won.”

Turning to Bush, Trump cited the former Florida governor’s support of Common Core education standards and a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants as straying too far from conservative ideology.

He also condemned Bush’s brother President George W. Bush’s appointment of Chief Justice John Roberts to the Supreme Court, since Roberts authored the opinion that saved Obamacare.

“The last thing we need is another Bush,” Trump said, drawing more applause.

Trump also told the Iowa Freedom Summit what he’s been telling interviewers and audiences for weeks, even though his history would leave many doubting his sincerity.

“I am seriously thinking of running for president,” he said. “We have a presidential election coming up. We have some good people — nobody like Trump, of course.”

In a brief interview with ABC News, Trump insisted that he’s serious about running for president this time — even though he flirted with and rejected White House runs in 1988, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012.

Seeking to demonstrate that, he brought handouts to the Freedom Summit, the conservative confab that drew as many as 10 potential Republican candidates for president, although Bush, Romney, and Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul were among the prominent no-shows.

Attendees got postcard-sized two-sided pictures featuring Trump. Included were a younger Trump shaking hands with the late President Ronald Reagan — and a much, much younger Trump in his Presbyterian confirmation class, in 1959.

One of the cards also includes a glossy family photo, with bold type at the top: “THE KEY TO SUCCESS IS HAPPINESS THROUGH FAMILY.”

“I was friendly with Reagan,” Trump told ABC. “I got along with him great. I’m a big fan of his. I had a great relationship with him.”

Asked why voters should take him seriously this time around, when he’s made similar noises about a presidential run so many previous times, Trump insisted that he’s in a better place in his own life, and therefore really, really serious this time.

“Because I’m in a great position from every standpoint. My children are in executive positions. And from every standpoint I’m in a great position,” Trump said.

Trump indicated to the crowd that if he runs, he’ll offer an aggressive alternative to his fellow Republicans. With customary braggadocio — he said his company is “incredible,” that he owns “many, many” websites, and that the American people will be “very proud of me” if and when he files financial disclosure forms.

He expressed anger not just with President Obama but Republicans in Congress.

“I’m very disappointed by our Republican politicians, because they let the president get away with absolute murder,” he said.

He said he’d build a “beauty” of a border fence if elected president, and tweaked Republican doctrine that favors curbing entitlement reform.

“I’ll probably be the only Republican who doesn’t want to cut Social Security,” he said. “I’m not a cutter of Social Security. I want to make the country rich so we can afford Social Security, and Medicare, and Medicaid.”

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High-Alert in Delhi as President Obama Arrives for Republic Day

sihasakprachum/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW DELHI) — U.S. and Indian security agencies and intelligence services are mounting an unprecedented operation to keep President Obama safe on foreign soil as he arrives in India for a historic visit as “chief guest” of Republic Day.

Driving it all is the fact that the president will spend more than two hours outdoors Monday on an open-air viewing platform in the center of the city – a situation U.S. Secret Service tries very hard to avoid – made more complicated with foreign military aircraft crisscrossing overhead, tens of thousands of residents clogging surrounding streets (and escape routes), and Pakistani militants threatening terror.

“There’s not been a similar event that he’s attended overseas,” said deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes. “So this is unique.”

The memory of the September 2008 series of deadly coordinated bombings around Delhi is fresh on peoples’ minds in addition to the assault on a Mumbai hotel by alleged Pakistani militants two months later. India’s top military officials have warned in recent days of potential terror strikes by Pakistani militants against soft targets in and around New Delhi, a threat Pakistan denies.

The U.S. Secret Service and its Indian counterpart are not taking any chances. There will be more than 80,000 Indian police and paramilitary officers in the streets, officials say.

At least 15,000 closed-circuit TV cameras have been installed to watch the crowds and every inch of the parade route has been scouted for pre-planted bombs.

A city trying desperately to clean up its image has even overturned thousands of trash cans within a mile radius around the ceremonial area, which is also lined with steel fence.

An Indian AWACS plane will for the first time be watching all of this from above, monitoring any incoming projectiles or errant aircraft.

While Indian security forces turned down American demands for their snipers, they will for the first time let their chief guest arrive to the viewing stand in his own car – an American non-negotiable, according to officials.

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