Why Obama Watching a Parade in India Matters
It's significant on a number of levels
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 26, 2015 7:25 AM CST
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, and Barack Obama, right, watch the Republic Day parade in New Delhi, India, Monday, Jan. 26, 2015.   (AP Photo/Stephen Crowley, Pool)
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(Newser) – Today saw India's 66th Republic Day celebrations, and the first attended by a US president. But that's not because of past American snubs; rather, this was India's first invitation to a commander-in-chief, per the Wall Street Journal. Republic Day commemorates the anniversary of when India's constitution came into force in 1950, per the AP, and much is being made of Obama's presence at the festivities. What you need to know:

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited Obama to be the celebration's chief guest, which an Indian TV commentator said is one of the most significant honors India can bestow upon a foreign leader.

  • The Times of India describes it as a "unique experience for Obama," pointing out that he observed the military parade for roughly two hours from an outdoor platform, "an unusual amount of time given Secret Service security concerns."
  • The New York Times confirms that's the largest chunk of time Obama has spent outdoors while abroad as president. Bulletproof glass shields were placed in front of him, and the Times has this example of how thorough security was: Reporters' ballpoint pens were taken from them.
  • The significance of Obama's presence: The Journal paints it as "a display of strengthened ties between the world’s largest democracies as an increasingly assertive China shifts Asia’s power balance."
  • As for those strengthened ties, much has been made of how chummy Modi and Obama are (the two exchanged a "bear-hug" upon meeting yesterday). Politico contrasts Obama's "few friends among foreign leaders" with the "genuine, surprising warmth between him and Modi." Buzzfeed takes it to the next level in a piece titled "16 Unbearably Cute Things That Happen When You Reunite With Your BFF."
  • A quirky observation: The Times observed that while at the parade, Obama "appeared to be chewing gum, probably Nicorette, which he uses as a substitute for smoking." (Two months ago, doing so was a problem.)