India has invited US President Donald Trump to be the chief guest for next year’s Republic Day parade and celebrations, TOI learned on Thursday. If it happens, the Narendra Modi government might be tempted to tom-tom it as the biggest foreign policy coup in the past few years.
While India is still awaiting an official response from the US, the latter is said to have indicated to the Indian government in the past few weeks that the Trump administration is favourably considering the invite sent by India in April this year. The invite was followed up with several rounds of diplomatic engagement over the issue.
For his sheer unpredictability, Trump’s presence here, if he indeed chooses to come, promises to be even more dramatic than the one by his predecessor Barack Obama who was Modi’s first R-Day guest in 2015.
Almost every major world capital has struggled to cope with the mercurial and irascible leader and India has learnt the hard way that it is hardly an exception.
Differences over trade tariffs, US reluctance to acknowledge India’s close energy and historical ties with Iran and India’s proposed deal for purchase of S-400 missile defence system from Russia have left many wondering if India even figures in Trump’s priority list like it certainly did in Obama’s.
The government is hoping that India will be among the countries which might be granted a waiver from sanctions the US is threatening to impose on those importing crude from Iran.
That the US chose to postpone the 2+2 dialogue, where India was expected to outline ways to address some of these differences, because Secretary of State Mike Pompeo decided to visit North Korea on the scheduled date only magnified the erratic nature of the Trump administration for Indian authorities. The fact that Pompeo did not even get to meet Kim Jong-un during his Pyongyang visit has also not gone unnoticed.
The government pursuing the invite to Trump with great determination is a sign though that it does not believe the differences with the US are insurmountable. It also knows that a confirmation of US president visit will also help it stem, to an extent, the tide of recent foreign policy criticism, not least because of the reverses India seems to have suffered in the neighbourhood recently. That it will take place months before the general elections is an added incentive for the government.
The invite to Trump is also in line with the Modi government’s attempts to ensure the presence of international heavyweights on R-Day. Obama in 2015 was followed next year by then French president Francois Hollande as chief guest. Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan attended the parade in the same capacity in 2017. And in 2018, one of the foreign policy highlights for the government has been the presence of all 10 Asean leaders at the R-Day event.
SOURCE : TNN