The United States has indicated to India that President Donald Trump may not be able to attend Republic Day as the chief guest owing to intense domestic political commitments.
Officially, the problem cited is the State of Union address to the Congress, which the White House does not want to reschedule. This address is slated to happen either on third fourth Tuesday of January, which may fall either side of the Republic Day.
Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama had made an exception and rescheduled his State of the Union address to attend the Republic Day as chief guest in January 2015.
This was always an issue because of which, government sources said, a formal invitation was never delivered, though exploratory conversations were on with White House.
These conversations were largely follow-up efforts after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had invited Trump to come to India in 2019. It was later felt that the political message would be even better if the US President could make it for the Republic Day.
The White House had in August confirmed that they were looking at an invite from India but were yet to take a final call.
The State of the Union address in January, sources pointed out, would be a critical political event for Trump as it will happen after the hotly contested November midterm elections to the Congress.
The State of the Union address is akey speech by the US president to Congress in which he outlines his agenda for the next year and highlights his achievements.
The mid-term elections will see the Republicans and Democrats fight for each of the 435 US House of Representatives’ seats and 34 of the 100 Senate seats. Republicans currently have a majority in both.
The stakes are high for Trump as any victory for Democrats will make discourse in US domestic politics sharper.
Trump has some international commitments as well during January 2019, sources hinted, adding making his schedule further complicated.
In the past guests for the Republic Day have included heads of state or government from India’s immediate and extended neighbourhood, permanent members of the UN Security Council – Russia and France, leaders from the developing world — Indonesia, Brazil and Iran and from close partners Japan.
In 2018, all 10 ASEAN leaders were chief guests at the Republic Day creating history and coinciding with Indo-ASEAN commemorative summit.
While in 2016, then French President Francois Hollande was the Republic Day chief guest, 2017 saw Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan attending the parade at Rajpath.