Washington: In an official confirmation, the White House officials on Tuesday confirmed that US President Donald Trump’s unavailability for India’s Republic Day celebrations in 2019 is based on scheduling constraints.
“President Trump was honored by Prime Minister Modi’s invitation for him to be Chief Guest of India’s Republic Day on January 26, 2019 but is unable to participate due to scheduling constraints,” the spokesperson said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had invited President Trump for a bilateral visit to India during their talks in Washington in 2017.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders had, in July, said that Donald Trump has received an invitation to visit India, but no decision has been taken yet.
It is said that the annual State of the Union (SOTU) address to both Houses of the US Congress by Donald Trump is likely to be around the time India will celebrate its Republic Day. The SOTU is normally delivered in the last week of January or first week of February.
The spokesperson said that the US President and PM Modi enjoy a strong personal rapport and Donald Trump is committed to deepening the India-US relationship.
‘US-India strategic partnership’
- “The President enjoys a strong personal rapport with Prime Minister Modi developed through two meetings and several phone calls and remains committed to deepening the US-India strategic partnership,” the spokesperson said.
- “The President very much looks forward to meeting Prime Minister Modi again at the earliest opportunity,” the White House spokesperson said.
- PM Modi and Donald Trump are scheduled to attend the G-20 Summit in Argentina on November 30 and December 1. It is possible that the two leaders might meet and discuss bilateral relationship there.
Differences between the two countries
- President Trump’s decision comes at a time there have been differences between the two countries over India’s defence purchases from Russia and oil imports from Iran.
- India’s insistence on buying oil from Iran despite US sanctions on the oil-producing nation did not go well with the Trump administration.
- The Modi government also decided, despite the threat of US action, to buy the Russian S-400 long-range missile system, which America considers is within the scope of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.
- The S-400 missile system is arguably the world’s deadliest surface-to-air missile and the US believes the weapon can bring imbalance on the battlefield if it falls in wrong hands. Russia’s deployment of the missile system in Syria is seen as a threat to the West.
Every year, India invites world leaders to attend its Republic Day celebrations.
In 2015, the then US president Barack Obama had attended it as the chief guest which was his second visit to India as American president.
This year, leaders from 10 ASEAN countries had attended the Republic Day celebrations.
In 2016, the then French president Francois Hollande was the chief guest of the parade while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the chief guest at the celebrations in 2014.
The heads of state and government who have attended the Republic Day celebrations include Nicolas Sarkozy, Vladimir Putin, Nelson Mandela, John Major, Mohammed Khatami, and Jacques Chirac.
(With inputs from PTI)