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Obama to visit India, but not Pakistan, on Asian trip

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Obama meets with visiting Pakistani delegation
  • The president will spend three days in India on his upcoming Asian trip
  • Obama also is expected to take part in the G-20 summit in Seoul

Washington (CNN) -- President Barack Obama told visiting Pakistani officials Wednesday that he won't be going to their country next month on a trip to Asia that includes a stop in neighboring India.

A White House statement said Obama met with the Pakistani delegation attending this week's U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue to discuss how to further strengthen relations between the countries.

"The President explained that he would not be stopping in Pakistan during his trip to Asia next month, and committed to visiting Pakistan in 2011, as well as welcoming (Pakistani) President (Asif Ali) Zardari to Washington," the statement said.

The third meeting this year of the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue concludes on Friday.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs confirmed later Wednesday that Obama would spend three days in India on the Asian trip, which is expected to include the president's participation at the G-20 summit in Seoul, South Korea.

Gibbs said that Obama's schedule for India was still being worked out.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that Obama's itinerary would skip the Golden Temple of Amritsar, the spiritual center of the Sikh religion, in part to avoid having to put on a head covering -- as required of all visitors to the shrine -- that could reinforce the erroneous belief among some Americans that Obama is Muslim. Sikhism is a completely different religion from Islam.

Gibbs said Obama's itinerary was based on "what the president wants to accomplish," and that consultations with Indian officials continued on the final schedule.

Earlier, a White House official speaking on condition of not being identified also said the final schedule for the trip had yet to be released.

"India is a vast and extraordinary country, and there are many more events that the president would like to do -- and sites that our advance teams visit -- than he will have time for during a three day visit," the official said. "We will advise the president's itinerary when it is finalized."

Also Wednesday, Obama attended his monthly teleconference on Afghanistan with his national security team. The White House statement said the 90-minute meeting included discussions on relations with Pakistan as well as Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai's establishment of a High Peace Council, a panel seeking peace discussions with the Taliban.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, Ed Henry and Tom Cohen contributed to this story.