India invites US president Donald Trump to be Republic Day chief guest in 2019; White House yet to respond

The Indian government has invited US president Donald Trump to be the chief guest at next year's Republic Day celebrations, says a report.

According to The Times of India, India is awaiting the US government's response where the latter has indicated that Trump administration is favourably considering the invite that was sent in April this year. The invite was reportedly followed up with multiple rounds of diplomatic talks.

The Narendra Modi government hosted Trump's predecessor Barack Obama at the Republic Day celebrations in 2015. If Trump accepts the invite, his visit will likely be more dramatic and closely-watched than Obama's was, considering his mercurial nature and the uncertain India-US ties at the momentIn 2016, (now former) French president Francois Hollande was the chief guest at the Republic Day parade, while the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan was the guest in 2017.

This year, in an unprecedented move, 10 leaders of ASEAN countries— Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, Laos and Brunei — attended the celebrations.

The invite to the Trump administration comes amid differences with US over trade tariffs, India's ties with Iran and New Delhi's proposed deal with Russia over S-400 defence missile system.

In June, after US piled pressure on India to cut oil imports from Iran, New Delhi agreed to take all necessary steps including engagements with relevant stakeholders to ensure its energy security, even as the government has asked oil firms to start exploring alternative sources. The move came after US ambassador to UN Nikki Haley during her trip to India said that New Delhi should rethink its ties with Iran. The US reportedly told India and other countries to cut oil imports from Iran to "zero" by 4 November or face sanctions, making it clear that there would be no waivers to anyone.

Regarding the defence deal with Russia, US had earlier indicated that India's planned Rs 40,000-crore deal to buy the sophisticated, long-range S-400 air defence system from Russia would "complicate" building inter-operability between the United States (US) and Indian militaries.

However, India conveyed to the US that the "time-tested" India-Russian cooperation in the defence sector will continue, including the deal for S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems for the Indian Air Force (IAF), notwithstanding the American sanctions against Moscow.

The India-US ties also took an uncertain turn when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cancelled the crucial '2+2' dialogue in June. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman were earlier scheduled to travel to the US to take part in the meeting with Pompeo and Secretary of Defence James Mattis on 6 July. But on 27 June, Pompeo spoke over the phone with Swaraj to express his "regret and deep disappointment" at the US having to postpone the dialogue for "unavoidable reasons". They, however, agreed to reschedule the meet at a later date.

Source - FP 

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