US & World

Obama takes in India's grand Republic Day parade

US President Barack Obama (2L) waves as he leaves India's Republic Day parade on Rajpath with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (C) in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness.  AFP PHOTO / Roberto SCHMIDT        (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (2L) waves as he leaves India's Republic Day parade on Rajpath with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (C) in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness. AFP PHOTO / Roberto SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images
US President Barack Obama (2L) waves as he leaves India's Republic Day parade on Rajpath with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (C) in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness.  AFP PHOTO / Roberto SCHMIDT        (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the Indian Army Sikh Regiment march during the country's Republic Day parade in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as US President Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness.
ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images
US President Barack Obama (2L) waves as he leaves India's Republic Day parade on Rajpath with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (C) in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness.  AFP PHOTO / Roberto SCHMIDT        (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Trumpeters from the Indian Border Security Force's Camel Mounted Band play their instruments while riding their camels during the nation's Republic Day Parade in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as US President Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
US President Barack Obama (2L) waves as he leaves India's Republic Day parade on Rajpath with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (C) in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness.  AFP PHOTO / Roberto SCHMIDT        (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (C), Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (L) attend a reception at Rashtrapati Bhawan, the Presidential Palace, in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a sign of the nations' growing closeness.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
US President Barack Obama (2L) waves as he leaves India's Republic Day parade on Rajpath with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (C) in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness.  AFP PHOTO / Roberto SCHMIDT        (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian spectators watch as a Medium-range Air Defence System rocket is displayed during India's Republic Day parade in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as US President Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness.
ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images
US President Barack Obama (2L) waves as he leaves India's Republic Day parade on Rajpath with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (C) in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness.  AFP PHOTO / Roberto SCHMIDT        (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian members of the Central Reserve Police Force marching contingent march during the country's Republic Day parade in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as US President Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness.
ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images
US President Barack Obama (2L) waves as he leaves India's Republic Day parade on Rajpath with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (C) in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness.  AFP PHOTO / Roberto SCHMIDT        (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
An Indian Air Force Boeing C-17 Globemaster III strategic lift aircraft (C) flies in formation with Sukhoi SU-30MKI air superiority fighter aircraft during a flypast for the country's Republic Day Parade in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as US President Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness.
TENGKU BAHAR/AFP/Getty Images
US President Barack Obama (2L) waves as he leaves India's Republic Day parade on Rajpath with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (C) in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness.  AFP PHOTO / Roberto SCHMIDT        (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
A float depicting a mechanised lion walking over a modern city, representing a recent push by the Indian Department of Industrial Policy to promote India as a manufacturing hub, passes by spectators during the Indian Republic Day parade in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as US President Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness.
ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images
US President Barack Obama (2L) waves as he leaves India's Republic Day parade on Rajpath with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (C) in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness.  AFP PHOTO / Roberto SCHMIDT        (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the Grenadiers contingent of the Indian Army march during the country's Republic Day parade in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as US President Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness.
ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images
US President Barack Obama (2L) waves as he leaves India's Republic Day parade on Rajpath with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (C) in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness.  AFP PHOTO / Roberto SCHMIDT        (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian students hold national flags and perform during an event to mark the country's 66th Republic Day parade in Amritsar on January 26,2015. US President Barack Obama has become the first US president to be chief guest at India's Republic Day parade on January 26, a day after hailing a new era of friendship between the world's biggest democracies.
NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images
US President Barack Obama (2L) waves as he leaves India's Republic Day parade on Rajpath with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (C) in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness.  AFP PHOTO / Roberto SCHMIDT        (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian dancers perform during India's Republic Day parade in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as US President Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness.
ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images
US President Barack Obama (2L) waves as he leaves India's Republic Day parade on Rajpath with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (C) in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness.  AFP PHOTO / Roberto SCHMIDT        (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian students perform a traditional folk dance during an event to mark the country's 66th Republic Day parade in Amritsar on January 26,2015. US President Barack Obama has become the first US president to be chief guest at India's Republic Day parade on January 26, a day after hailing a new era of friendship between the world's biggest democracies.
NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images
US President Barack Obama (2L) waves as he leaves India's Republic Day parade on Rajpath with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (C) in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness.  AFP PHOTO / Roberto SCHMIDT        (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
An Indian dancer performs during the Indian Republic Day parade in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as US President Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness.
ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images
US President Barack Obama (2L) waves as he leaves India's Republic Day parade on Rajpath with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (C) in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness.  AFP PHOTO / Roberto SCHMIDT        (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian Border Security Force (BSF) motorcycle specialists perform during the Indian Republic Day parade in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as US President Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness.
ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images
US President Barack Obama (2L) waves as he leaves India's Republic Day parade on Rajpath with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (C) in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness.  AFP PHOTO / Roberto SCHMIDT        (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian students perform during an event to mark the country's 66th Republic Day parade in Amritsar on January 26,2015. US President Barack Obama has become the first US president to be chief guest at India's Republic Day parade on January 26, a day after hailing a new era of friendship between the world's biggest democracies.
NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images
US President Barack Obama (2L) waves as he leaves India's Republic Day parade on Rajpath with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (C) in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness.  AFP PHOTO / Roberto SCHMIDT        (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian Border Security Force (BSF) motorcycle specialists perform during the Indian Republic Day parade in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as US President Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness.
ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images
US President Barack Obama (2L) waves as he leaves India's Republic Day parade on Rajpath with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (C) in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness.  AFP PHOTO / Roberto SCHMIDT        (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian performers run holding hands as they participate in India's Republic Day parade in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. Rain failed to dampen spirits at India's Republic Day parade January 26 as US President Barack Obama became the first US president to attend the spectacular military and cultural display in a mark of the nations' growing closeness.
ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images


President Barack Obama on Monday took in a grand display of Indian military hardware, marching bands and elaborately dressed camels, becoming the first American leader to be honored as chief guest at India's annual Republic Day festivities.

The crowd erupted in cheers as Obama, along with first lady Michelle Obama, emerged from his armored limousine and took his place on the rain-soaked parade route in the capital of New Delhi. The parade was the centerpiece of Obama's three-day visit to India, which is aimed at strengthening a relationship between the world's largest democracies that has at times been fraught with tension and suspicion.

Obama's attendance at the Republic Day celebrations was unlike any other event he has participated in during his overseas travel as president. He spent about two hours on an outdoor viewing platform, an unusual amount of time given Secret Service security concerns. Obama nodded in approval as Indian tanks and rocket launchers, some of them Russian-made, rolled down the parade route and air force jets sped by overhead.

Republic Day marks the anniversary of India's democratic constitution taking force in 1950. Beyond the show of military power, the parade included ornate floats highlighting India's cultural diversity. Obama gave a thumbs-up to the acrobatic balancing act of several groups of men on motorbikes, while Mrs. Obama smiled broadly at dance performance by young children.

Following the parade, the Obamas attended a reception with dignitaries at Rashtrapati Bhawan, the sprawling presidential palace.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's invitation for Obama to attend the parade surprised White House officials. After some internal deliberation, Obama ultimately decided to attend and has sought to use the visit to turn his burgeoning personal friendship with Modi into policy breakthroughs.

U.S. officials have welcomed Modi's efforts to forge deeper ties with Washington, despite his own difficult history with the U.S. Modi was denied a visa to visit the U.S. in 2005, three years after religious riots killed more than 1,000 Muslims in the Indian state where he was the top elected official.

Officials in both countries say Obama and Modi developed an easy chemistry when they first met in Washington last fall. The two leaders spent several hours together Sunday and heralded their close relationship.

Obama said Modi's "strong personal commitment to the U.S.-India relationship gives us an opportunity to further energize these efforts." And the Indian leader declared that "the chemistry that has brought Barack and me closer has also brought Washington and Delhi closer."

Modi is well aware that Obama's presence at a showing of India's military strength could upset Pakistan, New Delhi's bitter rival, and Washington's long-time ally in the subcontinent.

While Modi invited Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to his swearing-in ceremony in May, the Indian leader has consistently taken a tough tone with Islamabad. Relations between the U.S. and Pakistan have also hit rough patches in recent years, though counterterrorism cooperation has remained strong.

Obama and Modi heralded progress on defense and climate change, as well as breakthroughs on an impasse over implementing a landmark civil nuclear deal their countries agreed to in 2008.

While details on the nuclear breakthrough were scarce, U.S. officials said the governments had overcome their differences on two fronts: U.S. insistence on tracking fissile material it supplied to India and American business concerns with India'sliability rules that could impact their legal responsibilities in the event of a nuclear power plant accident.

Officials said it would be up to U.S. companies to determine whether the new agreements with India adequately addressed their concerns.

Westinghouse Electric Co., one of the companies that could benefit from the agreements, said in a statement that it was "pleased that the U.S. government and the government of India continue to make progress to resolve issues that will enable Westinghouse and other U.S. companies to participate in India's growing nuclear energy market."

Westinghouse CEO Daniel Roderick was among the American business leaders joining Obama in New Delhi for meetings with Indian executives.

Obama urged business leaders to find ways to seize the "untapped potential" that could unleash greater trade between the U.S. and India. And he pledged $1 billion in new financing to support the export of American-made products to India.

The president was to close the visit Tuesday with a speech to young people. He had planned to tour the Taj Mahal, India'sfamed white marble monument of love, but scrapped that stop and instead will go to Saudi Arabia to pay respects to the royal family following King Abdullah's death.