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Obama to Be 'Chief Guest' at India's Republic Day in January

FILE - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends the 12th ASEAN-India Summit during the 25th ASEAN Summit in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Nov. 12, 2014.

The White House says President Barack Obama will be the Chief Guest at India's Republican Day celebration in New Delhi in January.

This will be the first time in history a sitting U.S. president will attend the celebration.

Obama also will meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who in his invitation to the president described him as a "friend."

The White House says the talks will strengthen and expand U.S.- Indian relations.

Republic Day

Republic Day marks the adoption of the Indian constitution in 1950, completing the transition to democracy that started when India won independence from Britain in 1947.

Earlier this month, the United States and India announced an agreement to resolve a dispute about food subsidies that has held up the ratification of a global trade pact.

World Trade Organization delegates approved the trade deal last December, seeking to streamline customs rules and cut the cost of shipping goods around the world.

Trade pact

The pact needed approval of all 159 WTO members, but India declined to ratify it because of concerns about a clause that restricts the size of food subsidies governments could provide.

The White House issued a statement on November 13, 2014, saying the U.S. and India agreed on a provision that calls for WTO members not to challenge the subsidy programs until they agree on a "permanent solution" to the matter.

The White House said the U.S. and India will present the proposal to the WTO "in the near future."

An Indian law passed last year calls for the government to provide wheat and rice at low prices to 850 million people.

Developing nations say that kind of subsidy is necessary to ensure their people have adequate food, but the WTO worries the programs could distort global markets.