NEW DELHI: US President Donald Trump is unlikely to accept India's invitation to be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations, sources said Sunday.
The US is understood to have 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.
This comes at a time when Indo-US ties have witnessed some strain after India went ahead and 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 sources said India has already shortlisted names of two-three heads of states for extending an invitation to be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade.
Earlier this year, the US 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 transaction with the defence or intelligence establishment of Russia.
India and the US were in touch with each other over New Delhi's invite to Trump to visit the country.
The sources indicated that India was not exclusively looking at Trump's presence at the Republic Day celebrations and that various other options were also being explored.
In July, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders 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.
Every year, India 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 the American 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.
The heads of state and government who have attended the Republic Day celebrations include Nicolas Sarkozy, Vladimir Putin, Nelson Mandela, John Major, Mohammed Khatami and Jacques Chirac.