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Invite to Donald Trump not 'Republic Day-specific', other options open: Sources

In the backdrop of reports that United States President Donald Trump has been invited as the Chief Guest of the Republic Day celebrations in 2019, highly placed government sources have said that the invite sent to the White House is not date-specific.

The sources close to the establishment here said that the invitation to President Trump's office is not date and time-specific, adding that the two sides are in constant touch with each other over the same.

The date, time and occasion of the possible trip are under consideration, official sources were quoted as saying by the PTI.

The sources further indicated that India was not exclusively looking at his presence at the Republic Day celebrations as the Chief Guest and that various other options are also being explored.

"The date, time and occasion of the visit is still being under consideration," said an official source.

This comes days after it was reported that the Government of India has extended an invitation to the US President to visit the country next year.

The sources said that the option of Trump gracing the Republic Day celebrations as the Chief Guest in 2019 was also explored during several meetings between the two sides on New Delhi's invite.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders had confirmed last week that President Trump's office has indeed received an invitation to visit India, but no decision has been taken yet.

"I know that the invitation has been extended, but I do not believe that a final decision has been made," Sanders told reporters when asked whether PM Modi has invited Trump to be the Chief Guest at the next year's Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had invited President Trump for a bilateral visit to India during their talks in Washington in June 2017.

If President Trump accepts the invitation, it would be one of the major highlights of the Narendra Modi before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Trump's decision to grace the 2019 R-Day celebrations is also expected to give a major boost to ties between the two strategic partners in key areas of defence, security and trade.

The Trump administration has been pushing for deeper strategic cooperation with India, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region where China was expanding its influence.

Every year, the GoI invites world leaders to attend its Republic Day celebrations.

In 2015, the then US President Barack Obama had attended it as the Chief Guest which was his second visit to India as US President.

This year, leaders from 10 ASEAN countries had attended the Republic Day celebrations.

In 2016, the then French President Francois Hollande was the Chief Guest of the parade while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the chief guest at the celebrations in 2014.

So far Nicolas Sarkozy, Vladimir Putin, Nelson Mandela, John Major, Mohammed Khatami and Jacques Chirac are among the heads of the states who have attended the Republic Day celebrations.

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