Million Dollar Question- Who Will Accept Invitation as Second Choice?
Amidst growing tension on India’s purchase of Russian S-400 air defence missile system and unhindered oil import from Iran despite Washington’s sanction threats, US President Donald Trump has declined the invitation to be the chief guest at the Republic Day, 26 January 2019, celebrations,
According to reports, this was conveyed in t a letter from US authorities to National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval. The report, initially carried out by Times of India, was later removed from their website, saying “This story has been removed due to inadequate information.”
This leaves Prime Minister Modi in a tough position, as he has to find a replacement, one who might be willing to risk public perception as the ‘second choice’ candidate. This would a test for Indian diplomacy as to which wodld leader could be roped in to grace the occasion.
PM Narendra Modi had invited President Trump for a bilateral visit while he visited Washington in June last year. A joint statement at that time said, “President Trump gladly accepted Prime Minister Modi’s invitation to visit India.” A fresh invitation was sent to President Trump to be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations.
It is believed that if Trump accepted the invitation it could serve a major boost to ties between the two strategic partners in key areas of defence, security and trade.
The refusal from Washington came at a time when the ties between India and US are witnessing some strain. India had pressed Washington for a waiver from US sanctions on military procurement from Russia. The US had earlier announced sanctions against Russia for its alleged meddling in the presidential election in 2016.
After withdrawing from multilateral Iran nuclear deal, also known as JCPOA, President Trump has threatened countries importing oil from Iran to bring it down to zero by November 4.
India, being the second largest oil buyer from Iran, had also sought a waiver from US sanctions. The US has been pushing for deeper strategic cooperation with India, especially in the Indo-Pacific region where China was expanding its influence.
Every year, India invites world leaders to attend its Republic Day celebrations. Japanese PM Shinzo Abe was Chief Guest in 2014, Barack Obama, the then US President in 2015, French President Francios Hollande in 2016, Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan in 2017 while in 2018- leaders from ten ASEAN countries attended the Republic Day celebrations.
The heads of state and government who have attended India’s Republic Day celebrations also include Nicolas Sarkozy, Vladimir Putin, Nelson Mandela, John Major, Mohammed Khatami and Jacques Chirac.