India's intimate security blanket
November 8th, 2010
05:08 AM ET

India's intimate security blanket

NEW DELHI, India (CNN) –Traveling with President Obama whether domestically or abroad always means going through several layers of security screening. But Indian law enforcement officials have taken security to an unusually high level.
For example Monday's gauntlet to enter the Hyderabad House, where President Obama and Prime Minister Singh were making joint statements and taking a few questions from the press.

Entering the gate to the sprawling compound took nerves of steel.

There was pushing and shoving before my name was finally spotted on a list and I was allowed inside. My black shoes covered with a thin layer of dust.

My skin covered with bug spray to ward off pesky mosquitoes.

But as I was preparing to place my bag on the conveyor belt for screening, I heard loud voices and the only word I recognized "laptop" stopped me in my tracks.

What officials were trying to tell me was that people with laptops should step aside because for now we would not be allowed to go any further.

There were several minutes of animated discussions then suddenly laptops were again legal.

I placed my bag on the belt after I helped the operator unhook the strap of a purse that was jammed in the machine. "Stop the belt," I shouted twice.

From there I went through the airport-style metal detector then came to know a security guard quite well when he used a wand and his hands to seek out any additional contraband. Let's just say it was an intimate pat down.

That was where my chewing gum and lip balm were confiscated. "Really, my lip balm," I asked. "Yes" the security official said. But he apparently didn't have the last word on my lip product.

An elderly man and woman sitting in lawn chairs in the shade were given the small tube for closer inspection. They discussed the matter privately for a few seconds then I was asked, through hand signals, to apply some to my lips. I did, then accidentally dropped it in the dirt. I was allowed to take it in, but after all that I threw it in the trash.

Next I had to explain the rest of the contents of my bag. Makeup, face wipes, Ipod, phone cords. That is where my water bottle was seized.

After another five minutes I was waved on.

You would think that this thorough screening would have cleared me for a trip to the Situation Room, but alas my journey to the front row seat of the venue was only half way through.

After no more than 20 steps I was stopped once again. My credentials were reviewed and that wand paid a visit to my body yet again.

Surely this had to be it? But instead I was inspected twice more within steps of each of the security stops.

Didn't that uniformed officer just see me going through the same thing just steps away?

Fortunately the joint statement and press availability by President Obama and Prime Minister Singh was still hours away. There was no rush when I strolled up to the front row of the mostly empty venue which was under a sprawling large white tent.

The stuffed white chairs, beautiful flower arrangements and the nearby soothing sound of a garden fountain made me forget what I had just been through.

We hear so much about national security that this experience got me thinking, wouldn't the world be a much safer place if we just screened everyone as if they were going in for a meeting with the leaders of the U.S. and India?

Topics: India • The Buzz • The Visuals

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soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    I understand that Israel has the most intensive screening and I'm happy to see that India is taking care of our precious cargo, The President of the United States Barack Obama. Thank you India.

    November 8, 2010 at 1:31 pm |
  2. ABa

    All that security is necessary to keep the unwanted elements out of the country and and rest of the population safe. it is worth it, don't you think? I wouldn't mind it for my safety.

    November 8, 2010 at 1:43 pm |
  3. John Smith

    Dan Lothian should not be complainning about the security checks. I just returned from a private trip to Delhi, & Jammu. There were no presidents involved, but the the security checks were as thorough as Lothian went through. I am glad it was so. I rather be safe from terrorists, trained by ISI, with American arms and defence aid. Keeping the US prsoident safe from terrorists seems like a good strategy on the part of Indian authorities.

    November 8, 2010 at 1:57 pm |
  4. Jefrin P

    "Really, my lip balm," I asked. "Yes" the security official said.

    This is the exact same security detail required if an Indian is expected to enter the US consulate in India. You can't even carry baby food or milk into the consulate if you are taking a baby to the consulate. Also, you are not supposed to carry any keys (not kust car keys with remote controls but even without remote control – like a key to a door lock) as well. I guess we should lock our homes and throw the keys away before we go to the consulate. So then what is wrong in expecting the same from Americans entering any Indian installation? Do you think you are entitled to special treatment?

    November 8, 2010 at 2:01 pm |
  5. Anokh

    Terrorists like show bombers made everybody do the security check like never before. Your president is guest in my country India and we can never let anything happen to our guest like President Obame or any other President, does not matter, we will be ready to die protecting him if we have to. Glad you made through security check.

    November 8, 2010 at 2:57 pm |
  6. Michael

    Wouldn't the world be a much safer place if we just screened everyone as if they were going in for a meeting with the leaders of the U.S. and India?

    No, it will not.

    November 8, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
  7. CN

    This is exactly what happens when you go to the US consulate..

    November 8, 2010 at 6:57 pm |
    • Sandeep

      Couldn't agree more!

      November 9, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
  8. Sandeep

    "Sir, You have just been selected for a random security check. Please step aside!" ... does this sound familar? It's another story that those "random" security checks are never random!

    November 8, 2010 at 7:44 pm |
  9. Shaun Williamson

    Considering the kind of support we are providing to Pak for all the Help "against" terrorism I guess the Indians have to make sure that we are safe enough from them as well as safe from Pak sponsored games every where else in the World..I guess its not only us they are also spending around same amount of Money to keep Prez safe.. get a perspective you are visiting a country demographically and culturally opposite to US..and also went through terror hardships more than learn to me modest instead of just complaining all the time like moronic westerners in the eyes of Asian peoples..

    November 8, 2010 at 7:55 pm |
  10. Havildar

    Safety is very important.

    November 9, 2010 at 9:25 am |
  11. Havildar

    Where the Leaders of the World's Strongest and Largest Democracies are involved Safety is Very Important.

    November 9, 2010 at 11:14 am |
  12. Lyubimets

    I have a problem with the overall premise of your article but I still think its really informative. I really like your other posts. Keep up the great work. If you can add more video and pictures can be much better. Because they help much clear understanding. 🙂 thanks Lyubimets.

    November 17, 2010 at 3:55 am |