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Republic Day Chief Guest Conundrum — India Readies Plan B if Trump Doesn't Make it

News 18 has learnt from sources that for the moment there are two options before India. Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth or Argentinian President Mauricio Macri who will be in India during January-end next year could step in as chief guest.

Maha Siddiqui | CNN-News18

Updated:August 30, 2018, 10:34 AM IST
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New Delhi: The growing discomfort over the pending response from White House for the Republic Day invite to US President Trump is visible. While the Ministry of External Affairs has refused to officially divulge any details of the invitation, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders did confirm it earlier this month by saying, “I know the invitation has been extended. I don’t believe a final decision has been made.”

In fact, despite the clarity from the US on the specificity of the invite, sources in India had a couple of weeks back, claimed that it was "not date specific". This was also a giveaway that India was getting ready with a Plan B in case President Trump is not able to make it for January 26 next year.

News 18 has learnt from sources that for the moment there are two options before India. Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth will be travelling to Varanasi for the 15th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas from January 21 to 23. Post which he is also likely to travel with other guests to Allahabad for the Ardh Kumbh. He is expected to be in Delhi on January 25 and could be a good choice to be the chief guest at the parade.

Jugnauth is of Indian origin tracing his roots back to Bihar. He is participating in PBD with next year's title being “Role of Indian Diaspora in building a New India.”

The other possibility is to have Argentinian President Mauricio Macri as the chief guest. This too is being considered because he will be in India in January-end next year. Before the meeting between the two sides next year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will also be meeting him at the G-20 summit in November as Argentina is the host country.

News18 had learnt from sources earlier that there was a possibility of a response from the White House post the 2+2 dialogue on September 6. But now with the realisation of how crucial the US mid-term polls in November could be for President Trump, India is not very hopeful of a reply soon. Ministry of External Affairs typically makes an announcement about the chief guest for R-Day by October- November.

Moreover, some other sources are indicating that US might call this too a “scheduling issue” and express the inability of the President travelling around January 26 due to another crucial engagement around that time — State of the Union Address.

The State of the Union Address traditionally takes place in January-end with the speaker extending an invitation to the US President to address the Congress. In 2019, it is likely to be on January 28. So for the US President the dates would be too close to manoeuvre and SOTU will take precedence, especially if the mid-term polls do not go off well for Trump.

| Edited by: Ahona Sengupta
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