Washington, Nov 22: US President Barack Obama's proposed visit to India, to be the chief guest at the 2015 Republic Day celebrations, is a great opportunity to strengthen and expand bilateral strategic partnership, top American administration officials and experts have said. [US President accepts Modi's invitation to be chief guest at Republic Day celebration next year]
"First time a US President is to attend Republic Day (celebrations), which commemorates the adoption of India's constitution. We are committed to strengthening and expanding the US-India strategic partnership," National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, tweeted. [Pak PM Sharif urges Obama to take up Kashmir issue with India]
"The President looks forward to traveling to India in January to participate in the Indian Republic Day celebration," she said. "President Obama is honored to be going to India in January as the Chief Guest for Indian Republic Day. Sign of our close ties and friendship," Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and a close confidant of Obama, wrote on Twitter.
"A great honor and opportunity in what is still a complicated relationship," Teresita Schaffer, a retired American diplomat said. "This is a huge deal. Obama will be part of what may be the most theatrical parade in the world. The Chief Guest slot is by far the most prestigious invitation India can extend to a foreign leader," Schaffer wrote on her blog - "SouthAsiahand.Com" Japanese Prime Minister was last year's honoree.
Obama is the first US President to be honored in this way, and the first to visit India twice during his time in office, she said in the blog. South Asia expert Michael Kugelman from Wilson Center, a top American think tank, described Obama accepting the invitation as a great news that would "send strong message just weeks after the end of drawdown in Afghanistan".
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal, in a news dispatch from New Delhi, said the visit is a symbol of improving US-India ties after Modi traveled to the White House in September. "In a summit that officials said gave the two leaders an opportunity to establish a rapport, the two leaders agreed to strengthen security relations," the daily reported.