Barack Obama may be the first US President to attend the Republic Day parade but he is not the first American leader to be invited for this event, according to a former Indian diplomat.
Former Foreign Secretary K Srinivasan said today the then President Bill Clinton was invited for the Republic Day parade on behalf of then Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao in 1994 but he declined as he was not willing to change the timing of his State of the Union address.
"When Narasimha Rao went to Washington in May 1994, he came back very impressed by President Clinton and a month or so later he asked me to sound the President whether he will be agreeable to be our Chief Guest for the Republic Day in 1995.
Rather than using the diplomatic channels like the US Embassy in Delhi or Indian Embassy in US, I decided to phone Strobe Talbott, who was then deputy secretary of state(deputy foreign minister). He got back to me very very quickly to say that Clinton was extremely gratified to get the invitation but the State of the Union address was his great priority," Srinivasan told Karan Thapar’s special programme on Obama’s visit on 'Headlines Today'.
Srinivasan said that Talbott told him that Clinton would not change the timing of the State of the Union address and therefore regretted his inability to come to India to witness the parade held traditionally on January 26.