Invite to Trump for India visit, not Republic Day specific: Sources
New Delhi, August 9
Days after the White House confirmed that an official invitation has been extended to US President Donald Trump to be the chief guest at India’s Republic Day parade in 2019, Indian official sources now say it was not a “specific invitation” for January 26.They stress it was a generic invitation for the US president to visit India.“There was an invitation handed over to President Trump by PM Narendra Modi during his DC visit last June. The invitation that stands is a generic one where we are trying to work out dates and President Trump will have to decide when he visits India,” said an official.However, in early August, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was asked a specific question by a journalist if the invitation for Trump to be the chief guest at India’s next Republic Day parade had been received.“I know the invitation has been extended but I don’t believe a final decision has been made. I do know that both Secretary Matis and Secretary Pompeo will be traveling to India next month and will begin the dialogue and process and potential discussion for a presidential visit later in the year,” Sanders had replied.Sources now suggesting that the invitation is not Republic Day specific could be damage control in a likely scenario where the White House turns down the invitation.Barack Obama was the first ever US President bestowed the honour in a surprise move by PM Modi in 2015.If Trump accepts the invitation it will be for the first time that head of state of a same country becomes the chief guest for the second time in four years.New Delhi, which has so far officially refused to comment on media stories that reported about the invitation, is now signalling this different position even as Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale is in Washington DC for regular foreign office consultations.US Defence Secretary James Matis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be in New Delhi on September 6 for the twice postponed inaugural 2+2 dialogue with their counterparts Nirmala Sitharaman and Sushma Swaraj.Discussions on a possible Trump visit are expected to take place among other pressing bilateral issues during the talks.