On his state visit to India this week, President Barack Obama is not scheduled to make a visit to Harmandir Sahib (aka the Golden Temple), barring any unexpected developments.
As he partakes in India’s Republic Day festivities in India’s capital, his itinerary seems to be focused on solidifying the business/political relationship between the US and India. As reported in the Washington Post:
Officials said Obama and Modi are expected to conduct talks around the business climate, trade, climate change, Afghanistan and terrorism.
The visit will not be completely about politics and trade either, as the President and First Lady have set some time for sight seeing:
Over the course of the three-day trip, Obama will give a speech on the future of the U.S.-Indian relationship, pay his respects at the nation’s memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, and visit the Taj Mahal before heading home.
Accompanying the President’s delegation are US Senators and House Representatives, specifically Rep. Joe Crowley from New York who has recently been an ally to the Sikh community on domestic Sikh American issues, and Rep. Ami Bera of California, who, while similarly supporting the Sikh American community on domestic issues, came under heavy criticism for declining to acknowledge human rights issues faced by Sikhs in India in favor of appeasement of foreign interests.
It would not be the first time that the President bypasses one of the world’s most notable places of worship. During his last visit to India in 2010, President Obama neglected to visit Harmandir Sahib despite considerable interest and expectation from the Sikh American community.
It is also notable that the President’s neglecting to personally visit Sikh places of worship does not only happen on the international stage. In 2012, after the mass shooting of Sikhs at the Sikh Temple of Oak Creek in Wisconsin, the President declined to visit the site despite having personally visited every other site of mass shootings that occurred around that time.
Such an omission on the President’s part to personally visit Sikh places of worship is a blot on his record of support for the community, and particularly so because it also is inconsistent with the record of other heads of state who have made such visits in the past. While a visit by the President to Harmandir Sahib would do the Sikh American community some good in terms of media exposure, it is not out of character for him if he neglects to do so yet again.