White House Correspondent
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Monday battled with Indian security outside a bilateral meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi, threatening to pull the president from the meeting if a certain number of American reporters were not allowed into the room to cover it.
According to press pool reports, Indian officials decided to cut back on the agreed-upon number of White House reporters allowed into the meeting. Indian and American officials had previously arranged for eight reporters to attend the first few minutes of the meeting, but Indian security later trimmed that to five -- without consulting the White House. American officials, according to the report, "lobbied hard" to gain access for all eight reporters, but their Indian counterparts would not relent -- until Gibbs "announced loudly and persistently" on the steps of India's Hyderabad House that he "would pull Obama out" of the meeting unless "the White House 8" -- as the reporters were known -- were all allowed in.
The situation apparently escalated: Gibbs at one point "had his foot lodged in the closing front door, asking if the Indian security officials pushing hard to shut it were going to break his foot." A heated exchange ensued, and Gibbs was able to persuade the Indian security to let all eight reporters in only after making clear "through high volume and repetition that he was serious" about his threat to pull Obama out of the meeting. All eight reporters were then escorted in, alongside their Indian counterparts.
Emotional exchanges aside, Indian-American relations are showing little signs of strain thus far: Obama announced a host of Indian-American business partnerships over the weekend, and the White House today released a series of strategic bilateral concerns ranging from export controls, counterterrorism cooperation, and education initiatives. Perhaps most notable: at a speech to the Indian parliament on Monday Obama also called for
an expanded United Nations Security Council and giving India a permanent seat on the body.