Trump’s regret lands Centre in protocol difficulties

Trump’s regret lands Centre in protocol difficulties

India has to invite another leader for Republic Day who will be aware that he or she was not the ‘first choice’

Putting all doubts to rest, United States President Donald Trump clarified on Tuesday that he would not visit India on January 26 as chief guest of the Republic Day parade.

However, the White House statement, which came four months after it had confirmed receiving the invitation, has raised more questions for the NDA government than it has answered.

“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 said in response to questions.

Jumped the gun

Far from sparing the government’s blushes, however, Mr. Trump’s official regrets have confirmed that the invitation was actually sent out to the guest without his “in principle” acceptance in the first place. With the regrets being made public, the government now has the difficult task of inviting another leader who will be well aware that he or she is not the “first choice”.


Define ‘strategic partners’

While cancellations have taken place in the past, as with the Sultan of Oman’s last-minute pullout in 2013, the current situation is unusual, say former officials aware of the protocol.

According to the officials who asked not to be named, while bilateral visits may be accompanied by a little more flexibility, the invitation to the Republic Day chief guest is the “culmination of an annual exercise”, carried out with extreme formality, given the solemnity of the function. Leaders from countries are seldom repeated, and more than one former diplomat The Hindu spoke to said it was surprising that President Trump’s name had been chosen by the PMO, given that President Barack Obama had already been the guest in 2015.

Others pointed out that the Modi government’s choices of Republic Day guests have been fairly unconventional. Both Mr. Obama in 2015, and French President Francois Hollande in 2016 were chosen though Mr. Modi had visited their countries just months earlier, and another bilateral meeting would seem superfluous. In another departure from protocol in 2017, the government invited the United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who was not a head of state or head of government.

Damage control

The invitation to Mr. Trump may have been an effort to repair ties between the two countries as well, and provide the leaders a chance for extended dialogue, given that they last met in November 2017, and haven’t spoken on the phone since February.

“The President enjoys a strong personal rapport with Prime Minister Modi developed through two meetings and several phone calls and remains committed to deepening the U.S.-India strategic partnership. The President very much looks forward to meeting Prime Minister Modi again at the earliest opportunity,” the White House spokesperson said, significantly, in the statement.

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