After much speculation, the US government has said that President Donald Trump will not be attending India's Republic Day celebrations next year. The White House has cited "scheduling constraints" for not being able to make it to the grand event. Prime Minister Modi had invited the US President to India during his visit to Washington last year. His predecessor Barack Obama, the former US president, had also attended the Republic Day event in 2015.
"President Trump was honoured by Prime Minister Modi's invitation for him to be Chief Guest of India's Republic Day on January 26, 2019, but is unable to participate due to scheduling constraints," a White House spokesperson told PTI on Monday when asked about Trump's decision on Modi's invitation.
The decision over Trump's India visit on the Republic Day was long pending. Earlier in July, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders had also said that no decision was taken on the matter. Reports said the dates of the US President's annual State of the Union (SOTU) address -- that is held during the last week of January or first week of February -- to both Houses of the US Congress will clash with the Republic Day celebrations in India, which is why the US President would not be able to attend the event.
The spokesperson, however, said that the US President Trump and PM Modi enjoy "a strong personal rapport" and that both leaders are committed to deepening the US-India strategic partnership.
Also, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, speaking at the India-US strategic forum, said the two countries share a "natural affinity" with each other. He said that President Trump and Prime Minister Modi have had a very good equation and held productive talks, especially with regard to trade and investments. "There is a natural affinity for cooperation from both the Indian side as well as the American side. On that note, we are on the right path towards bilateral cooperation," said the minister.
The minister's office, quoting Goyal, tweeted: "On a strategic level, we have been building up on our defence and security engagements. Both sides have been very understanding and cooperative with the geopolitical moves made by each other."
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Modi and Trump will have their next meeting during the G-20 Summit in Argentina on November 30 and December 1.
This year, leaders from 10 ASEAN countries had attended the Republic Day celebrations. In 2016, the then French president Francois Hollande was the chief guest of the parade while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the chief guest at the celebrations in 2014. The heads of state and government who have attended the Republic Day celebrations include Nicolas Sarkozy, Vladimir Putin, Nelson Mandela, John Major, Mohammed Khatami and Jacques Chirac.