U.S. President Barack Obama will attend India’s Republic Day celebrations in January as chief guest, the first American leader to attend the annual celebration, the White House announced Friday.
Mr Obama was invited by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Washington earlier this year.
Mr Obama, who visited India in 2010, would also be the first U.S. president to visit the country twice while in office.
It’s the latest sign in the flourishing relationship between the two nations, one which has received a filip since the election of Mr Modi in May.
The two countries are developing a strategic partnership prompted by shared concerns about China’s increasingly assertive territorial claims in the Asia-Pacific region.
Modi met Obama on a visit to the United States in September and they have spoken by telephone since. Their relationship is thought to have helped resolve a major trade spat in the World Trade Organization.
Modi used a Twitter message to announce Obama as the chief guest on Republic Day, which marks the enactment of India’s constitution on Jan. 26, 1950.
Modi was denied entry into the United States from 2005 until he was elected prime minister in May, after allegations he did too little to stop religious riots that killed at least 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, in his home state of Gujarat.
Modi denied any wrongdoing.
India traditionally invites a head of state to participate as chief guest for Republic Day celebrations, which culminates in a military parade including its nuclear capable missiles.
Much of the hardware dates back to the Soviet era, when India had close ties with Moscow, while more recent defense purchases include billions of dollars of U.S.-made equipment.
Last year’s chief guest was Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has taken a tough line with China over its territorial claims.