India’s Republic Day is still a few weeks away but Indian and American security agencies are already making zealous preparations to turn Delhi into a fortress for the celebrations, at which United States President Barack Obama will be the chief guest.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in November that Obama had accepted his invite to attend the Republic Day parade on January 26. The news was branded a “diplomatic coup” by most media outlets.

Given the levels of threat faced by both the leaders, agencies from both India and the US are preparing to set unprecedented levels of security in the capital.

While on any other Republic Day, about 25,000 paramilitary forces and policemen guard the capital, next year about 50,000 paramilitary forces, cops and Indian Army personnel are going to watch over the city.

India’s Research and Analysis Wing, Intelligence Bureau, National Security Guard, paramilitary forces, Indian Army and the Delhi Police have already begun making preparations in conjunction with the US Secret Service, the Central Intelligence Agency, US Navy Seals and the Special Protection Group.

Death threats

The extraordinary security in the capital, said officials at the ministry of home affairs, is necessary because of the many death threats Obama and Modi receive daily.

“Narendra Modi gets on average 10 death threats every day, while the US president receives more than 20,” said a home ministry official. “They are high on the hit list of terror groups such as Islamic State, Al-Qaida, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Hizbul Mujahideen.”

While the CIA, RAW, IB and other intelligence agencies are evaluating credible threats and tracking suspicious activities on the internet, the Navy Seals, Secret Service, Special Protection Group, National Security Guard, paramilitary forces and the Indian Army are focusing on securing the ground.

According to the home ministry official, every phone call from Pakistan and Dubai to India through satellite phones will be monitored by the intelligence agencies beginning January 20.

Major lockdown

The city’s VIP area, which falls under the purview of the New Delhi Municipal Corporation, will be placed under lockdown on January 26. No vehicles will be allowed in and all pedestrians will be monitored. Two hundred bulletproof cars, with policemen, will dot the area.

In addition to that, closed-circuit television cameras will be installed from 7 Race Course Road (the Indian prime minister’s residence) to Maurya Sheraton and Taj Hotel (where the US president and his entourage will stay). The top five floors of both hotels will be cleared and monitored by the US Secret Service. Along a radius of two kilometres from them, commandos and snipers will be positioned on rooftops. Whenever and wherever Obama moves, the area will be monitored with satellites.

All those taking the Delhi Metro on Republic Day will have to get off before the New Delhi Municipal Corporation area as most stations, within a radius of seven kilometres, will be shut down.

Halt in air traffic

On January 26, the airspace over the New Delhi Municipal Corporation area will be closed for all domestic and international flights. Beginning two days before, seven kilometres of airspace above the hotels will be out of bounds.

To top it all, according to the home ministry official, air traffic will be halted in and around Delhi as soon as Obama lands at the Indira Gandhi International Airport on January 26, and it will resume only after the US president departs.

The US Secret Service is expected to bring in around 15 heavy-lift aircraft and seven military helicopters, along with the two F-35s that always accompany the Air Force One US presidential jet. India too is readying to take a slew of air defence measures, including preparing its anti-aircraft guns.