Obama to be chief guest at R-Day

Indo-US bonhomie takes giant stride

Obama to be chief guest at R-Day

US President Barack Obama has accepted an invitation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be the chief guest for the 66th Republic Day celebrations.

Obama is the first US president to be the chief guest for the Republic Day paradeand also to visit India twice during his tenure. He earlier visited India in November 2011.

New Delhi has hosted leaders of four other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council–China, Russia, UK and France–on previous occasions. The choice of the chief guest reflects the government’s foreign policy priority and strategic objective.

“This Republic Day, we hope to have a friend over…invited President Obama to be the 1st US president to grace the occasion as chief guest,” Modi tweeted on Friday.

Obama’s National Security Council was quick to confirm that the president had accepted the invitation. “President Obama will travel to India in January 2015 to participate in Indian Republic Day celebration as chief guest,” the NSC tweeted.

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said the prime minister took personal initiative after his visit to the US in September, and recently extended the invitation to Obama during a “diplomatic conversation”. A letter was subsequently sent to formally extend the invitation.

Washington on Friday conveyed to New Delhi the acceptance of the invitation by the US President, said Akbaruddin.

Obama will meet Modi and other Indian leaders “to strengthen and expand the US-India strategic partnership,” it added. Having the US president as chief guest for the government’s first Republic Day celebrations marks a major political and diplomatic achievement for Modi and also shows his keenness to take ties to a new level.

Modi travelled to the US in the last week of September and agreed with Obama to add new dynamism to bilateral ties, which somewhat plateaued in the years after the landmark civil nuclear cooperation agreement of 2008.

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