NEW DELHI: The Congress on Monday hit out at the Central government for extending an invite to US President Donald Trump to be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations without ascertaining whether he will be able to accept it or not.
"It is a diplomatic faux pas and an avoidable embarrassment. There was no justification to have extended the invitation without first ascertaining that US President Trump will accept it. It is a failure of Indian diplomacy, they should have avoided it," Congress leader Anand Sharma said.
There have been reports that the US President is unlikely to accept India's invitation. The US has reportedly conveyed to New Delhi that Trump may not be able to honour the invitation as he will have pressing engagements, including his State of The Union (SOTU) address, around the time India will celebrate its Republic Day.
Anticipating his refusal, India is said to have already shortlisted names of two-three heads of states who will be sent invites for the Republic Day parade.
While India had been in touch with the US over the invite to Trump for the Republic Day celebrations, New Delhi had not been exclusively looking at the US President's nod. Various other options were also being explored.
In July, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders had said that Trump has 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 had told reporters.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had invited President Trump for a bilateral visit to India during their talks in Washington in June 2017.
This is not the first time that India has sent an invite to the US. Earlier in 2015, the then US president Barack Obama was the chief guest at the parade.
The likely refusal from Trump also comes at a time when there has been some strain in the Indo-US ties after India sealed a deal with Russia to procure a batch of S-400 air defence missile systems, notwithstanding US threat of punitive action under CAATSA (Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act).
The US had announced sanctions against Russia under CAATSA for its alleged meddling in the American presidential election in 2016. Under CAATSA, the US can punish entities and governments engaged in a transaction with the defence or intelligence establishment of Russia.