New Delhi: Prospects of US President Donald Trump walking in Barack Obama’s footsteps in New Delhi are diminishing, with Indian official sources now stating that the invitation to the former real estate tycoon is not exclusively for Republic Day next year.
On August 1, White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders was asked if India’s invitation to Trump to be chief guest at Republic Day had been accepted.
“I know that the invitation has been extended, but I don’t believe a final decision has been made,” she replied, confirming that the discussions were about Trump’s presence on January 26, 2019 in New Delhi. Obama had been the first US President to be the chief guest at a Republic Day parade in 2015.
However, Indian official sources now assert that there had been “no date-specific” invitation to Trump.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had extended a formal invitation to Trump in July 2017. But no dates were discussed, they said.
There was an expectation here that US will give an answer to the Republic Day invitation after the postponed ‘2+2’ dialogue on September 6 in New Delhi. At the August 1 press conference, Sanders had confirmed that US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and US defence secretary Jim Mattis would “begin the dialogue and the process and potential discussion for a presidential visit later in the year”.
Now, Indian official sources are stating that the occasion and date of Trump’s visit “is still under consideration”.
The uncertainty about Trump’s visit has come while Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale is in Washington in the run-up to the first edition of the ‘2+2’ dialogue.
Sources had earlier told The Wire that while Trump’s presence at the VVIP enclosure in Rajghat on January 26 would have symbolic value, it may not have delivered much more in terms of substance than a normal state visit. “In terms of deliverables, there may not be much difference whether the visit takes place in January or February. The only difference would be in the optics,” sources said in July.
Earlier this month, US eased export controls on export of high-technology products to India by designating it as a Strategic Trade Authorisation-1 (STA-1) country.
India and the US continue to be in negotiations to resolve the dispute over new tariffs imposed by Washington on steel and aluminium. India had earlier planned to impose retaliatory tariffs on US products like almonds and walnuts on August 4, but decided to postpone them by another 45 days to allow for further talks.