Choosing R-Day chief guest: Behind the warm welcome, a cold strategy
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2008: President Nicolas Sarkozy of France — The two countries finalized their bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement even as India awaited the conclusion of the Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA.
2007: President Vladimir Putin of Russia — During this visit, Russia formally acknowledged India as a nuclear weapons power and offered to set up four more nuclear reactors at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu and additional ones elsewhere. Russia also promised support for special waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers' Group.
2006: King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud — At a time when engaging with the Muslim world was being seen as necessary from a strategic angle, India chose Saudi Arabia to begin the process of strengthening its presence in that region. Aware that hardly any Arab money was being invested in its markets, New Delhi wanted to correct that.
2005: King Jingme Singye Wangchuk of Bhutan — Bhutan had cracked down on ULFA militants in December 2003, becoming the only country to have demonstrated by action that it would not tolerate any anti-India activity on its soil. This was a thank-you invitation by India.
2004: President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil — This visit was indicative of the growing ties between the major emerging economies of the world. The IBSA (India-Brazil-South Africa) grouping had already taken off and trade with Brazil had crossed $1 billion for the first time. The two countries have been coordinating even more closely ever since, the most recent example of which was on display at the Copenhagen climate change summit.
2003: President Mohammad Khatami of Iran: India and Iran, at that time, were working on the common objective of bringing stability in Afghanistan. Both countries were supporting groups that were fighting the Taliban. India was helping the Northern Alliance led by Ahmad Shah Masood while Iran had been backing the Hazaras. Iran was the one that had offered India access to Afghanistan after Pakistan refused to let Indian foodgrains and other materials to be taken through its territory.