In what could turn out to be a massive diplomatic coup, India has invited US President Donald Trump to be the Chief Guest at next year’s Republic Day celebrations. The announcement has come amidst a strain in ties between India and the United States over the tariffs dispute, India’s close relationship with Iran, as well as India’s deal with Russia for purchasing the Russian made S-400 missile defence systems. Former US President Barack Obama had been invited as the Chief Guest back in 2015.
While it is clear that there has been a strain in bilateral relations, it must be noted that Donald Trump has his own style of going about diplomacy. The United States has not only been aggressive against nations it deems as threats, but has also substantially distanced itself with its own traditional allies. Tariffs on imports of Canadian and European products have seen an unusual strain in the United States’ ties with its northern neighbour and Western European allies. In light of the growing distance between the US and its traditional allies, India still seems to be faring rather well vis-a-vis relations with the United States is concerned.
India had retaliated to US-imposed tariffs by countering with its on tariffs on a list of American imports, threatening to take the matter to the WTO. India’s close ties with Iran, coupled with their joint attempt with Russia to circumvent American sanctions and push through a deal for the purchase of S-400 systems, further led to the already growing tensions between the two states. But India doesn’t have much to worry about, given that Trump’s style of diplomacy and negotiation is by default confrontational and aggressive. India remains a foreign policy priority for the United States, especially given India’s rapidly growing economy and role in the South Asia region. Furthermore, the United States needs India to counter China’s growing influence in the region.
The White House is reportedly favourably considering the invitation to the Republic Day Parade, which if accepted, could turn out to be a massive diplomatic coup by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, coming at the perfect opportune time for both nations who have no interest or intention in souring their bilateral relations any further. The move is in line with PM Modi’s unwritten policy of bringing in big names for Republic Day parades. After Barack Obama in 2015, French President Francois Hollande was invited the year after to attend the celebrations at India Gate. The 2018 celebrations were marked by the attendance of all the ten leaders of the ASEAN nations.
Recently, PM Modi’s foreign policy has been under reasonable criticism, with many divided over his dealings with Iran and the decision to retaliate against American imposed tariffs. Barring the relations with the United States, it must be conceded however that PM Modi has got his foreign policy strategy bang on. The consistent chess moves to limit China’s influence and sever the String of Pearls have borne fruit in nations like Sri Lanka and Myanmar. With regard to the United States, India must remember it is dealing with Donald Trump, who has a larger than life personality. Traditional diplomacy doesn’t work with the American President, and over time India will slowly but surely adapt to his unconventional ways.