Barack Obama chews gum at India's Republic Day parade

He really needs his nicotine fix

Kiran Moodley
Monday 26 January 2015 13:22 GMT
Indian viewers watch a broadcast of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama at Republic Day celebrations.
Indian viewers watch a broadcast of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama at Republic Day celebrations. (MANJUNATH KIRAN | AFP | Getty Images.)

Much has been made about the burgeoning friendship between President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

When Obama stepped off Air Force One in India, Modi gave the president an undeniable bear hug before calling Obama by his first name and stating that "the chemistry that has brought Barack and me closer has also brought Washington and Delhi closer."

Thus, the friendship between the two has become so comfortable that Obama appeared to be chewing gum while sitting next to Modi at India's Republic Day Parade.

Obama's chewing was noted by White House correspondent Peter Baker in Delhi, who tweeted:

However, the sight of the leader of the free world nonchalantly chomping away on gum was not well received by some in the subcontinent on Twitter. The Times of India called the sight "ungainly" while others seemed more shocked than outraged by the sight:

It's not the first time Obama's gum-chewing has made the headlines: President 44 received criticism at the APEC summit in Beijing in November because of the habit, as well as being spotted working his jaw on the substance at a World War II ceremony in France.

Of course, many on Twitter pointed to Obama's history of smoking and his use of nicotine gum on a regularly basis to halt his addiction.

When he signed a law in 2009 that gave authority over tobacco products to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, he said, "Each day, 1,000 young people under the age of 18 become new regular, daily smokers...I know; I was one of these teenagers and so I know how difficult it can be to break this habit when it’s been with you for a long time."

Obama could also have just been nervous in Delhi: White House reporter Baker noted that in attending the parade, "Obama has never before spent so much time outside in public overseas, a security challenge". He is also the first American president to attend India's Republic Day celebrations, which mark the anniversary of the country's constitution coming into force in 1950.

Security was so tight that the pool of U.S. reporters who were travelling with the president were not allowed to bring any phones or laptops, and security even confiscated ball-point pens.

Obama's attendance is a sign of just how far the relationship between the two countries has come: previous guests of honour at the parade have been Yugoslavia's Josip Broz Tito in 1968 and 1974 and Tanzanian leftist Julius Nyerere in 1971. Back then, India pursued a policy of non-alignment during the Cold War but with a tilt towards the USSR.

Obama's other etiquette mistakes

There have been other notable Obama gaffes over the years on numerous trips, although as with the gum-chewing, none of been particularly damning or damaging.

The president notably messed up his toast to the Queen on a visit to the UK, delivering his speech over the national anthem rather than waiting for it to stop. The First Lady, Michelle Obama, also put her arm around Her Majesty, breaking Royal Protocol, although many observers noted that the Queen put her arm around Michelle first.

Late last year, Obama came under fire for saluting a Marine guard with a coffee cup in his hand as he disembarked from Marine One.

A video posted by The White House (@whitehouse) on

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